LS, RS adjourned as disruptions mar Day 2 of Budget Session; no compensation for farmers who died in protests, says Centre
In both Houses of the Parliament, Opposition leaders protested loudly against the three farm bills, which are also at the root of a massive farmer agitation underway in Delhi for over two months
Both Houses of the Parliament were disrupted intermittently leading to frequent adjournments on Tuesday as Opposition members protested loudly against the three farm bills, which are also at the root of a massive farmer agitation which has been underway in Delhi since over two months.
Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day on Tuesday after the House convened thrice with Opposition leaders creating an uproar demanding discussion on the issue of farmers' protest over the three new farm bills. Similar scenes were witnessed in Lok Sabha as Speaker Om Birla dismissed an adjournment motion, which when allowed, provides for putting on pause any other business scheduled for the day in favour of a discussion on a definite matter of urgent public importance.
The Lok Sabha too was reconvened several times but had to be adjourned within minutes of assembly due to the protests and sloganeering. This was only the second day of the Budget Session, the first opportunity since Budget presentation to take up legislative and other businesses.
Farmers' agitation was the bone of contention behind a wasted day in the Parliament.
Even though the Centre reiterated that it was open to discussions both inside and outside Parliament, it remained unrelenting on farmers' issues.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police turned the protest sites into a fortress with concrete barricades, metal spikes and barbed wires. Some members also alleged that water and electric supply of the protest site was cut off to get the crowds to dissipate.
The Union government also, reportedly, refused to compensate families of farmers who have lost their lives during the protest. It said it has no information on the losses farmers faced for not being able to sell their produce in Delhi due to the protests.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs sought to defend the Delhi Police's action in the wake of 26 January violence stating that cops had no other way of controlling the mobs.
The Centre had maintained that 'extremist elements' had hijacked farmer's stir while the Delhi Police blamed movement's leaders for 'deliberately inciting' the mob. The farmers, meanwhile, have maintained that it was a conspiracy to malign and discredit their peaceful movement.
Rajya Sabha was first adjourned for about 40 minutes till 10.30 am, then till 11.30 am and then to 12.30 pm. When the House re-assembled at 12.30 pm, protesting members again trooped in the Well raising slogans, forcing Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh to adjourn proceedings for the day.
Before adjourning the House, the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman appealed to members to return to their seats and follow COVID-19 protocols. However, they did not heed to his requests.
Four bills were listed for consideration and passing in the legislative business for the day. They were: The Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020; The National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019; The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020; and The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020.
Earlier in the day, Congress, Left, TMC, DMK and RJD members first walked out from Rajya Sabha after their demand for suspension of business of the day for taking up the discussion was rejected by the Chair.
Opposition members shouted slogans to disrupt the Question Hour, forcing Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to adjourn proceedings till 10.30 am. As the sloganeering continued, Naidu asked the Opposition members to return to their seats. When the House met at 10.30 am, the sloganeering continued and the deputy chairman, who was in the chair, tried to persuade members to allow the House to function.
However, as the opposition members did not yield, he adjourned the proceedings till 11.30 am. At the time of adjournment, ports, shipping and waterways minister Mansukh Mandaviya was speaking on The Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020.
Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said Opposition members themselves were demanding Question Hour and the government agreed.
"Question Hour is going on... whether they (protesting members) want Question Hour or not, let them place it on record," he said, as Opposition members were raising slogans.
Opposition parties including the Congress, Left, TMC and DMK had given a notice under rule 267 that calls for setting aside of business of the day to take up a discussion on the issue pressed.
When the House met for the day, Naidu however, disallowed the motion.
"As we are going to start a discussion on Motion of Thanks to President's Address tomorrow, members can participate and raise their concerns," he said rejecting the 267 notice.
He also said several rounds of discussions have happened between the government and the farmers' group. "I understand the concern (of members) for the need to resolve the issue at the earliest date," he added.
Naidu, however, allowed members who gave notices to make very brief mentions.
Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the farmers have been camping for more than two months and the issue needs to be discussed.
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said the House is not aware of what is going on between the government and farmers and the House should discuss the issue separately from the Motion of Thanks. "We want a discussion on a specific issue," he said.
While CPI leader Elamaram Kareem said water and electricity supply to the protests sites has been cut, DMK's Tiruchi Siva said farmers have been sitting on roads for over two months in the cold and the issue needs to be discussed separately.
Manoj Jha (RJD) said the Parliament should at least discuss the issue. However, Naidu did not agree to their motion after which the members of Congress, Left, TMC, DMK and RJD staged a walkout.
"No one is stopping you from discussing the issue tomorrow. Tomorrow you will get an opportunity," he said.
Naidu said 10 hours have been allocated for discussion on Motion of Thanks to the President's address and an equivalent amount given for discussion on Budget.
"Please take the opportunity tomorrow," he said.
Lok Sabha also conducted negligible business today as protests and disruptions meant the House could barely function for a few minutes before Speaker Om Birla adjourned it each time.
When the House reassembled after several adjournments at 7 pm, Birla asked BJP member Locket Chatterjee to initiate the discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the president's address amid sloganeering by the opposition members.
Chatterjee began her speech by praising the government for deciding to celebrate the birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on 23 January as 'Prakram Diwas' every year. The member from the poll-bound state of West Bengal continued her address amid the din.
After repeated appeals by the speaker and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi failed to calm the agitated members, Birla adjourned the House for the day.
Earlier in the day, as soon as the proceedings started, Opposition members from parties including the Congress, DMK and the Trinamool Congress trooped into the Well of the House, raising slogans demanding repeal of the three "black" laws.
Members from the Shiv Sena were seen raising slogans from the aisles. Former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal was also seen holding a poster demanding repeal of the contentious agriculture legislations.
Birla urged the members to return to their seats and follow the COVID-19 protocol. He said that in the ongoing Question Hour, questions related to farmers were listed and members can raise their issues at that time.
He also said during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the president's address, members can raise these issues. But opposition members refused to relent, forcing him to adjourn the proceedings repeatedly.
Govt won't compensate kin of those who lost lives
The Centre replied in negative to a question seeking to know if the government had any plans of compensating the family of those who had lost their lives during the course of the agitation.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, when asked if the government was aware that several farmers had died or fallen ill during the over-two-month-long sit-in protest, and if so whether it had the related statistics, the Union Agriculture Minister Tomar said, "Government of India during the discussion with these farmers unions representative appealed many times that children and elders including women should be requested to go home in view of the cold and COVID-19 situation and other hardships.."
The answer was "No sir," when asked whether they intended to compensate the family of those who had lost their lives.
While the government did not confirm the number of casualties during these protests, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had claimed in the House that at least 70 farmers have died during the ongoing agitation.
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The Centre also said that it has not received any information on losses incurred by farmers for not being able to sell their produce in the National Capital owing to the protests at various border points of the city. "Hence, the question of compensation for loss of produce does not arise," Tomar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.
Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are agitating for over two months now seeking repeal of the three new farm laws enacted by the Central Government as well as a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
The minister said some of the farmer unions have been agitating against the newly enacted laws — The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement On Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The agitating unions are demanding the repeal of these three laws. So far, 11 rounds of negotiations have been held between the government and the agitating farmer unions to resolve the issues, he said in a separate reply.
The government's 11 rounds of talks held with 41 farmers' unions to end the protest have not yielded concrete results so far.
The Centre has offered concessions including keeping the laws on hold for 1-1.5 years, which unions have rejected. The government, however, in the last meeting had asked the unions to reconsider its offer and convey their final decision.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court-appointed committee is also looking into the matter. The panel, which has to submit its report in two months, has so far held two rounds of consultations with the farmers.
There is no clarity when the talks will resume, although the government has made it clear that its doors are always open for discussion with farmers. The farmers' body, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, has, however, turned down the offer to talk in wake of the police action against farmer leaders and protesters.
The morcha said there was no question of conducting any talks until the "harassment was stopped" and the farmer leaders under arrest have been released.
With inputs from PTI
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