Monsoon Session of Parliament Day 5: Houses discuss lynchings, Bihar shelter home rape; Rajnath Singh rules out special status for AP
The Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act was also one of the things discussed in the Rajya Sabha, where TDP and other Opposition parties asked the BJP-led government to honour its assurances in letter and spirit by granting special category status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh.
On the fifth day of Monsoon Session 2018, issues such as cases of mob lynchings and the alleged rape and murder of a girl at a shelter home in Bihar figured in both Houses of Parliament. Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured action from the Centre on both matters.
The Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act was also one of the subjects discussed in the Rajya Sabha, where the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) and other Opposition parties asked the BJP-led government to honour its assurances in letter and spirit by granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh. However, the home minister virtually ruled out granting the special status to the bifurcated state, saying that the Centre was providing more assistance than what it would have got under that tag.
Rajya Sabha debates on Andhra Pradesh Act
In the Upper House, Rajnath said 90 percent of the promises made under the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act, which had led to the bifurcation of the state into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2014, have already been fulfilled. "The remaining promises will also be kept," he said, while replying to a short-duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the non-implementation of the provisions of the 2014 legislation.
His statement came after former prime minister Manmohan Singh said in the Upper House that he had expected his successor Narendra Modi to fulfil the UPA government's commitment to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh, as it was a promise made after consulting BJP leaders at the time.
"Whatever commitments have been made, not only by our prime minister but even by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, our government will fulfill those commitments," the home minister said, adding that commitments made in Parliament should be kept and the Centre was doing just that.
After his reply, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad categorically asked whether the Centre would be granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh and sought a reply in "yes or no".
To this, the home minister wondered whether it was not clear from his reply. "Why are you just stuck at special category status. Why don't you move on? The idea behind special category status is that the state should get assistance. We are giving more assistance than that," Rajnath said.
He added that the state was entitled to get over Rs 22,000 crore as a revenue deficit grant in five years ending 2019-20, and the Centre was disbursing the amount.
The home minister said there was a "conflict" between Manmohan Singh's promise of special category status and the 14th Finance Commission report, which has not made any distinction between a special category state and other states.
Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the Centre "has an open mind". "We are willing to consider in a rationale manner how these issues can be resolved so that the letter and spirit is adhered to," he said, adding that the state would not have got any extra funds through the special category status. "The purpose is that the people of Andhra Pradesh should get benefits, and the Modi government is fully committed to that... Don't go by the letter, go by the spirit of the arrangement."
Saying that the state has been provided with Rs 22,000 crore as a revenue deficit grant, he said: "If we were to rework all the schemes on 90:10 (ratio) as per special category status, then this revenue deficit grant would have come down by about Rs 17,500 crore."
In response, Azad said the Modi government should fulfill the promises it had made as well as those made by the earlier UPA dispensation. The Congress leader also warned that there could be a privilege motion against the NDA government if this was not done.
However, BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao, making his maiden speech in the House, defended the government, saying the Centre has fulfilled most of the promises made to Andhra Pradesh and accused the TDP of "misleading its own people".
Both Houses discuss Bihar shelter home rape and murder case
Parliamentarians expressed anguish over the alleged rape of girls and a murder in a state-run shelter home at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. The Centre said it would consider ordering an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation if the state government makes a recommendation.
Members of Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), raised the issue during Zero Hour in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Congress member Ranjeet Ranjan expressed concern over the alleged cases of young girls being forced into prostitution. She also demanded a CBI investigation into such cases. RJD member Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav alleged that there was lawlessness in Bihar. In response, Rajnath said it was a serious issue. "If there is a recommendation from the state government, then the Centre will consider ordering a CBI probe into the matter," he said in the Lok Sabha.
In the Rajya Sabha, RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha also demanded a CBI investigation in the Muzaffarpur case. A Janata Dal (United) leader said the Bihar government has already started an investigation.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu called the incident "very serious".
Discussions on mob lynching
Amid Opposition outcry in the Rajya Sabha over incidents of mob lynching in the country, Rajnath said the central government will enact a law, if necessary, to curb similar incidents.
Opposition parties, mainly the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), raised the issue in the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour and demanded that the Centre take action to curb lynchings.
TMC leader Shanta Chhetri cited media reports to say that "88 precious lives have been lost (in lynching incidents) since this government came to power". Noting that the Supreme Court had last week asked for a law to curb mob lynching, she asked what the government had done to check such incidents.
Responding to the criticism, Rajnath said, "I want to make it clear that the government is not just concerned but has taken lynching incidents very seriously." He reiterated that the biggest lynching in India had occurred in 1984 when thousands of Sikhs were killed in the aftermath of the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
"But the incidents of lynching should not be politicised. The Supreme Court has also given its observations on lynchings," he said.
A 28-year-old man was beaten to death on Friday on suspicion of being a cow smuggler in Lalawandi village in Rajasthan's Alwar district.
The home ministry had announced on Monday that it would sett up two high-level committees to suggest ways and a legal framework to effectively deal with incidents of mob violence and lynching.
Lok Sabha passes anti-corruption Bill
The Parliament on Tuesday passed an anti-corruption Bill that punishes both bribe givers and takers and allows prosecution of former public officials. The Rajya Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, last week.
In his reply, Union minister Jitendra Singh said the Bill provides safeguards to officers who perform their duties with honesty. "We have brought amendments so that an honest performing officer does not get intimidated or his initiatives get killed," he said, adding that the "historic legislation" has provisions to ensure speedy trial in corruption cases. "For any corruption case, we will bring guidelines for the decision to be ordinarily made in two years."
Referring to the delay in the appointment of the Lokpal, he said the blame laid with the Congress as it did not get enough seats for its leader to be recognised as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
The Leader of Opposition is a member of the Lokpal selection panel. Singh said the government had sought to include the leader of the largest Opposition party in the meetings concerning the Lokpal appointment. Many members who took part in the debate stressed on the need for electoral reforms to curb corruption.
Rajya Sabha adjourned for 90 minutes
At one point, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for about 90 minutes after noisy protests by TMC members, who stormed the Well demanding that black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks be brought back.
The protests erupted during the Question Hour, when TMC member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy sought to know from the finance minister the unaccounted deposits of Indians recovered so far from Switzerland, in how many cases have proceedings have been initiated and when would Indians get the promised Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts.
"I think the honourable member may have some information the government does not have. If he is privy to any information about black money, I think he should put it before the government so the government can take action," Goyal said, in his reply to Roy's question.
This provoked the TMC members who started shouting slogans, and some of them moved into the Well. The ruckus, during which Congress MPs were also on their feet and protesting vociferously, led the Rajya Sabha chairman to adjourn the House for about 90 minutes.
With inputs from agencies
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