Citing a heavy legislative agenda, the government avoided the Opposition’s attempts to raise issues like the India-China border row and economic crisis on the first day of the 18-day Parliament session on Monday.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also sought to discuss The Indian Express investigation report on a Shenzen-based technology company with links to the Chinese government monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of “foreign targets”, but Speaker Om Birla said the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) would meet on Tuesday to fix a time for discussing “sensitive issues”.
Sources said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to make a statement on the India-China border issue on Tuesday, if the BAC decides to slot it.
In his customary remarks before the start of the session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in what was seen by the Opposition as a pre-emptive move, called on Parliament to send out a unanimous message that the entire country stands behind its Armed Forces.
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“This Parliament, particularly this session, has a special responsibility… when our brave soldiers are at the border… The faith with which they are standing, determined to protect the motherland, Parliament, and all its members, will send out a message in a unanimous voice, spirit and resolve that the country stands in support of them,” he said.
“The entire Parliament stands with the brave soldiers with one voice. I believe that Parliament and all its honourable members will send out a very strong message,” he said.
When the session began, Chowdhury tried to raise the issue of Chinese aggression at the border twice, but Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said the BAC would meet on Tuesday to fix a time for discussing the issue. Chowdhury also sought to refer to The Indian Express report on the “hybrid warfare”.
“The BAC will discuss and fix a time for discussing sensitive issues. We will discuss sensitive issues sensitively,” Birla responded.
Speaking to The Indian Express later, Chowdhury said he was “surprised” that he was not allowed to raise the report. “It is a matter of grave concern. I was surprised that not a single word was allowed to be spoken on the issue. The issue is being discussed by the media and public. Why can’t Parliament discuss it? Is it isolated from the mainstream? Why is the government evading a discussion?” he said.
He said he wanted the government to offer a debate on the India-China border issue as there have been “confusing reports”. “The people in this country are being kept in the dark about what exactly is happening at the India-China border. There have been confusing reports and people have a right to know the truth. In order to give a clear picture to the nation, the government should come out and offer a threadbare discussion on the development. It is a matter of national security,” he said.
“The Congress party also supports the soldiers and the risk they have taken to protect the nation. We stand behind the soldiers. We want to support the government, but the government can’t run away from discussions,” he said.
During the 30-minute zero hour, the treasury benches avoided issues like the India-China border row, unemployment, migrant crisis and economic slowdown. NCP’s Supriya Sule was the only MP who raised the issue of unemployment and economic crisis. Urging the Centre to assist Maharashtra, she said: “On the first day, we could have discussed the state of economy and unemployment. I don’t see the Centre talking much about them,” she said.
The BJP MPs stuck to raising other issues. While Sanjay Seth talked about conversions in the tribal belts of Jharkhand, Ravi Kishan spoke about drug trafficking with reference to the film industry, and Jagdambika Pal talked about including Bhojpuri, Rajasthani and Bhoti languages in the eighth schedule.
Meanwhile, the government introduced eight Bills in the Lok Sabha and passed two pending Bills.
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