Press Trust of India

Parliament’s Monsoon session curtailed by two days

Parliament’s Monsoon session curtailed by two days
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Naidu breaks down over conduct of oppn MPs

New Delhi: The tumultuous Monsoon session of Parliament was on Wednesday curtailed by two days even as an anguished Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu broke down over the huge ruckus in the House equating the act of some opposition MPs to “sacrilege in temple of democracy” and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla saying he was “extremely hurt” by continuous disruptions.
The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die before the scheduled date of August 13 amid the unrelenting opposition protests over the Pegasus snooping row and the three farm laws but not before the Upper House passed the key constitutional amendment bill to restore the powers of the states to make their own OBC lists to pave the way for Parliament’s approval.
While the OBC bill got all-round backing and was passed after a division with 187 members voting in favour and none against during a thaw in the logjam marked by a five-hour debate, the bill for privatisation of state-owned general insurance companies was approved by the House by a voice vote amid vociferous protests by opposition parties. The two bills were earlier passed by the Lok Sabha.
Just hours after Chairman Naidu’s condemnation of the conduct of the opposition MPs amid high drama on Tuesday, an unprecedented security staff deployment inside the Rajya Sabha chamber to prevent a repeat of the ugly scenes of members climbing on tables did not deter them from creating a ruckus as they tore papers, jostled with the marshals and attempted to go near the presiding officer’s chair.
As all hell broke loose when the insurance amendment bill was taken up, the opposition MPs called it a “sell-off” and stormed into the Well of the House shouting anti-government slogans.
They were, however, prevented from going anywhere near the table of the House or the chair by a wall of about 50 security staff that sort of cordoned off what Chairman Naidu referred to as the “sanctum sanctorum”. Naidu also said a “certain degree of sacredness” is attached to this place.
Opposition protests over the Pegasus snooping row and the three contentious farm laws had continuously marred proceedings in both Houses of Parliament right from the start of the Monsoon session on July 19. The government, however, managed to get a raft of bills passed amid the din but has come under attack from the opposition.
Expressing distress over the unruly conduct by the opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday when a discussion on farmers’ agitation against the farm laws was being taken up, Naidu said he spent a sleepless night last night and struggled to find a provocation or reason for such a low in the “august House”, and lamented some sections have inflicted “incalculable damage” to its dignity and stature.
“I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts. As I spent a sleepless night last night, I struggled to find the provocation or reason for forcing this august House to hit such a low yesterday,” an emotional Naidu said, as he read out his remarks at the start of the proceedings in the Upper House.
Regaining his composure he continued to read his remarks but was interrupted by some TMC and Congress MPs who raised the issue of House dignity also being lowered by the passage of numerous bills within minutes and without debate.
One MP said the Chair should be impartial, following which slogan-shouting TMC and few other MPs trooped into the well of the House.
“Please have the decency… you may not agree,” said Naidu, who completed four years in office on Wednesday, as he continued to read his remarks amid sloganeering. Thereafter he adjourned the proceedings for almost an hour.
On Tuesday, some TMC, Congress and Left MPs climbed on the Secretary General’s and House reporters table which is right below the presiding officers’ chair and flung files at the Chair forcing multiple adjournments.
“I rise in deep anguish to place on record the way this august House is being subjected to sacrilege and that too, propelled by a sense of competition among some sections of the House, since the commencement of this monsoon session,” he said. “Everything said or done violating, hurting or destroying the sacredness of any place amounts to an act of sacrilege.”
Stating that the Parliament is regarded as the ‘temple of democracy’, he said the table area where the officers and reporters of the House, the Secretary-General and the Presiding Officer are seated is considered as the holy sanctum sanctorum of the House.
“A certain degree of sacredness is attached to this place. In our temples, devotees are allowed only up to this sanctum sanctorum and not beyond.”
Entering this sanctum sanctorum of the House, in itself is an act of sacrilege and it has been happening as routine over the years, he said.
“I am distressed by the way this sacredness has been destroyed yesterday. While some members sat on the table, some others climbed on the Table of the House, perhaps to be more visible with such acts of sacrilege. I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts,” he added.
Naidu said a discussion on ‘agricultural problems and solutions’ was listed for discussion on Tuesday after a broad agreement in the House to discuss the plight of farmers.
“Yesterday was a golden opportunity for the concerned members to have gone on record with their positions on all issues relating to the plight of the farmers. But it was not to be as the sole intention seems to be to not allow the House to function,” he added.
“What is worrisome is that some members of the House have shot the sad moments of sacrilege in the House yesterday and posted it on the social media. While doing so, they only ended up showing to the people the extent to which this august House can degenerate due to the newfound competitive and aggressive disruptions by some sections.”
“I earnestly appeal to the collective conscience of this House to seriously reflect on what has happened yesterday and explore the remedies, if any. Failure to do so would certainly render our parliamentary democracy irrelevant,” he said. “The choice before each one of you is very clear. It is either to be the best parliamentarian or the worst disruptor!”
Expressing anguish over the disruptions in Lok Sabha proceedings, Speaker Birla said he was “extremely hurt” and voiced the hope that parties will, through consensus, ensure that members follow the rules strictly and maintain the dignity of the House.
Addressing a press conference, Birla said out of the total 96 hours, the House functioned for only 21 hours and its productivity reduced to 22 percent due to the ruckus.
“I am pained with continuous disruptions of the House. I don’t have words to express my anguish over the ruckus in the House… I am extremely hurt.”
The Speaker said he will call a meeting of leaders of all parties to build a consensus on ways to ensure that rules are strictly followed and to discuss stringent action against habitual offenders.
Birla said people of the country expect Parliament, which is the temple of democracy, to function so that elected representatives can raise matters of public concern and feel saddened when it does not happen.
Asserting that the House can only run through dialogue and consensus, the Speaker said he also held several meetings with leaders from both treasury and opposition sides to end the logjam but it could not happen due to several factors.
“Members should maintain the dignity of Parliament and help run the House according to traditions… It is a collective responsibility,” he said while replying to questions, and expressed confidence that the next session will be more productive.
On possible action to check unruly behaviour of members, Birla said it is not necessary that action would yield the desired result, but added he will call a meeting of leaders from all parties to discuss “stringent action against habitual offenders”.
Union Minister and Leader of the Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal demanded strict action against the opposition MPs who created ruckus in the Upper House.

Press Trust of India

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