On the seventh day of Parliament monsoon session, Rajya Sabha witnessed pandemonium as opposition party MPs vociferously protested against two contentious farm bills –– The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 ––which were passed in the Upper House by voice vote.
The opposition members advanced towards the podium of the presiding officer, flung the rule book at him, snatched, threw and tore official papers and heckled him over their demand for a division of vote.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha passed the National Forensic Sciences University Bill, which seeks to upgrade the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University to a national varsity, without a debate. Aside from this, Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020, and The Bilateral Netting Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020, were also passed in Lok Sabha. The former seeks to upgrade the Gujarat-based Raksha Shakti University as an institution of national importance and also change its name.
In addition, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, was introduced in Lok Sabha. The government sought to make provisions of the FCRA, 2011, more stringent through a bill that proposes to include “public servants” in the prohibited category, decrease administrative expenses through foreign funds by an organisation to 20% from 50% earlier, make Aadhaar mandatory for registration and give government powers to stop utilisation of foreign funds by an organisation through a “summary enquiry”.
Here are the top developments of the proceedings of Parliament on Day 7.
Twelve Opposition parties on Sunday moved a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh over the manner in which two farm Bills were passed in the Upper House after he overruled their pleas asking for an adjournment of the proceedings. The parties that have submitted the notice of no-confidence motion include the Congress, All India Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, CPI, CPM, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, National Conference, DMK and the Aam Aadmi Party.
The House witnessed tumultuous scenes during the passage of the contentious farm bills as members from Opposition parties snatched and threw papers from the table and even broke the chairman’s mic. Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the manner in which the Bills were passed is a “murder” of democracy. “Our demand for adjourning the House and division of votes was disallowed,” he said. “We gave a no-confidence against the attitude of Deputy Chairman and the manner in which the Bills were passed.” He said the Deputy Chairman should have “safeguarded democratic traditions but harmed them instead”.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien accused the government of murdering the Parliamentary system and democracy. In a video, shared via his Twitter handle, O’Brien said, “The government did not allow the Opposition a vote on the farmers’ bills… They knew they weren’t in a position to pass the bills, so they cut RSTV feed so that the country couldn’t see our protest.”
During a discussion under Rule 193 on Covid-19 pandemic in Lok Sabha, Opposition parties slammed the government for the current pandemic situation. In view of the rising number of Covid cases, and plummeting GDP growth, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said India has become the “poster child of the worst-case scenario” of pandemic. He said that most of the countries have either managed to keep the spread of the disease under control at the cost of their economy or have kept the economy running while experiencing the onslaught of the disease. “India has become the poster child of the worst case scenario (of the pandemic). We have the worst of both worlds. We have neither managed to limit the spread of the virus nor have we managed to keep the economy afloat. GDP for the first time in 41 years will actually shrink,” he added.
Alleging “utter mismanagement” in dealing with the pandemic, Tharoor said the country witnessed “fundamental breakdown” in government machinery in the past few months, instead of mature and proactive governance.
DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran too criticised the government and the Prime Minister for imposing lockdown abruptly within four hours of the announcement. He pointed out the hardships faced by the people and the migrant labours due to the sudden shutdown. “Every time PM comes to speak at 8 pm, there’s a bad news. A similar thing happened in 2016 when he announced demonetisation and made people stand in queues to withdraw their own money,” he said.
Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant also criticised the unplanned lockdown. Describing the tough times experienced by common people and the migrants, he said, “After the announcement of lockdown, Mumbai streets saw more people than number of people who would have come to streets post-Partition. But the govt did not start trains. People were mowed down by (goods) trains on railway tracks. Somewhere, we made mistakes.”
Parliament Sunday passed the Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which proposes to cut the salaries and allowances of ministers by 30 per cent for a year to boost financial resources needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opposing an ordinance issued earlier this year to effect the salary and allowance cut, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said in Lok Sabha that the move was like being “penny wise and pound foolish.” Chowdhury said more money was spent in preparing copies of the bill than that saved by cutting allowances of ministers. Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the idea was more to do with contributing to a cause.
All including, the amount saved will be Rs 4 crore, the minister said. The bill was later passed by a voice vote in the lower house. Parliament had recently passed a bill to cut the salaries of MPs by 30 per cent for one year.
A total of 83,008 cases of doubtful voters is pending with Foreigners Tribunals in Assam while 86,756 others were declared foreigners in last five years, Lok Sabha was informed Sunday. Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said currently Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) are functioning only in Assam. “Government of Assam has informed that pending cases of doubtful voters in Assam in FTs are 83,008 and the number of people declared as foreigners in Assam from 2015 to June 30, 2020 are 86,756,” he said in a written reply to a question.
The RBI has not asked banks and non-banking financial institutions to raise capital as a precautionary measure ahead of a possible pile up in bad debt in the coming months, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur informed the Rajya Sabha. However, he said, “banks and non-banking financial institutions are required to maintain capital as per prudential capital adequacy norms on an ongoing basis.” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das at an event in July had advised that banks need to raise capital on an anticipatory basis to build up adequate capital buffers to cancel out risks arising out of coronavirus outbreak.
The Centre Sunday said there are no restrictions on movement of any individual, including the members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy in Lok Sabha said that based on inputs received from the law enforcement agencies on the prevailing security situation in J&K, the movement of some individuals, who are under security protection, got restricted to ensure their safety and security after the abrogation of Article 370 a year ago.
“At present, there are no restrictions on movement but for the security advisories to maintain the law and order situation and no person is under House arrest in Jammu and Kashmir for reasons not related to public health guidelines,” he said in written response to a question.
The government is granting all necessary support for development of a vaccine against the coronavirus in the country and three vaccine candidates are at present in different phases of clinical trial, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in Parliament on Sunday. Replying to a discussion in Lok Sabha on the coronavirus pandemic, the Vardhan said there are 13,000 quarantine centres in the country with over 6 lakh beds. “Yesterday (Saturday), we did 12 lakh tests in the country,” Vardhan said. He noted that when the pandemic began, the country had a few testing labs but now has the capacity to conduct 10 lakh tests a day.
(With PTI inputs)