Budget Session: Narendra Modi slams Congress' 'confused' stance on farm laws; Oppn takes aim at Budget

Several Congress members walked out of the Lok Sabha in protest while Modi was speaking on the farm laws

FP Staff February 10, 2021 22:12:00 IST
Budget Session: Narendra Modi slams Congress' 'confused' stance on farm laws; Oppn takes aim at Budget

File image of Parliament building. PTI

Parliament proceedings on Wednesday were marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks defending the Centre's new farm laws, and the Opposition hitting back by taking aim at the Union Budget.

Several Congress members walked out of the Lok Sabha in protest while Modi was speaking on the farm laws.

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Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the prime minister said the Central Government has great respect for the farmers who are voicing their views on the three farm bills, which is why senior ministers have been talking to them.

He further alleged that 'andolanjeevis' were polluting the pure motives of protesting farmers by hijacking well-intentioned agitations.

Modi made these remarks while replying in the Lok Sabha to the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address.

The Congress' leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, speaking to reporters after the walkout by his party MPs, said they were forced to do so as the prime minister did not say anything to satisfy the party's concerns over the farm laws.

Following are the key updates from the day —

Lok Sabha

Proceedings in the Lok Sabha were marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech, during which he laid out the government's stand on the farm laws in detail. Several Congress MPs staged a walkout during his address, including Rahul Gandhi.

Debate over farm laws

During his address, Modi said that neither has any agricultural 'mandi' (market) shut down after the three laws were enacted nor has the MSP stopped. Rather the MSP has only increased, which no one can deny, Modi stated.

"I consider the kisan andolan to be pavitra (pure). But, when andolanjeevis hijack well-intentioned agitations, showcase photos of those jailed for serious offences, does it serve any purpose? Not allowing toll plazas to work, destroying telecom towers- does it serve a pavitra andolan?," asked Modi.

"This House, our government and we all respect farmers who are voicing their views on the farm bills. This is the reason why the topmost ministers of the government are constantly talking to them. There is great respect for farmers."

Modi said those who are disrupting the House are doing so as per a well-planned strategy as they are unable to digest that people can see the truth.

"Through their games, the trust of the people can never be won," he said, amidst protests by the Opposition members.

Modi said the Congress has taken different stands in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. "A divided and confused party like this can do no good to the country," he added.

Subsequently, Congress' leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told reporters, "We thought the prime minister will talk about some important steps for the welfare of the farmers. Over 206 farmers have lost their lives, but the prime minister is not willing to say anything about it."

"He was talking about what his government has done for farmers and in that he also said the farm laws would benefit some people... But I said why are you bringing a law which is not beneficial for all. You say all is well, if that is so, what is the need to bring the laws," Chowdhury said.

He is the prime minister of all, and all farmers want that these farm laws to be withdrawn, the Congress leader said.

'Na jawan, na kisan'

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday, while discussing the Union Budget, said that Indian citizens have been repeatedly left disappointed by the government’s "mediocrity" in public policy.

Tharoor said that the government has come out with a Budget which deceives people with respect to the allocation in defence and health sectors. "Lal Bahadur Shastri had said 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan'. The contribution of this budget is 'na jawan na kisan'." he quipped.

In a similar vein, Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress said "Fiscal prudence has been thrown out of the window."

"Spend it like Sitharaman," Roy said in a jibe aimed at the finance minister, while accusing her of dismantling PSUs.

Breach of privilege notice against Mahua Moitra

Towards the latter part of the day, a Bharatiya Janata Party member gave a breach of privilege notice against Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra over her remarks against a former chief justice of India in the Lok Sabha.

The notice has been moved by BJP MP PP Chowdhary.

"While speaking on Motion of Thanks on President's address, she has cast some aspersions with respect to the conduct of a judge. So the question is whether the conduct of a judge can be discussed on the floor of the House or not," he said.

He referred to an article in the Constitution to contend that no allegation can be levelled against a sitting or ex-judge.

The statement made by her was deliberate, the BJP MP added.

Another BJP MP Nishikant Dubey demanded that Moitra's membership be terminated.

NK Premchandran, who was in the Chair, said that the notice is under consideration of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Several MPs demand restoration of MPLAD scheme

The Lok Sabha sitting for Wednesday, which was extended beyond midnight on Wednesday, also saw several MPs cutting across party lines demanding the restoration of the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme suspended last year.

Under the scheme, MPs can recommend development programmes involving an expenditure of Rs 5 crore every year in their constituencies. Last year, the government suspended MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) fund scheme during 2020-21 and 2021-22 and said that the funds will be used for managing health services and the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

"As most of the MPs and parties are requesting for MPLADS, we also request the finance minister to consider (restoring) MPLADS," GR Reddy (TRS) said during general discussion on Budget 2021-22.

Lok Sabha has 543 members and Rajya Sabha has a strength of 245. Speaking during the discussion, Supriya Sule (NCP) said that elected representatives cannot undertake any development work in their local area when people come with demand.

"We have to tell them that MPLADS has been suspended for two years," she said.

The situation is exactly opposite in Maharashtra where the state has ensured that every MLA including from the opposition gets Rs 5 crore every year, she said, adding there is no cut even during COVID-19 pandemic.

"Obviously, they are doing something right, considering GST (revenue) is not coming but they are managing well. I think maybe you all should take a lesson from Maharashtra Finance Minister Ajit Pawar. He can guide you run the ministry a little better. It is always good to take ideas from people," she said.

Shiv Sena MP Shrirang Barne too demanded that scheme be restored. On the rising number of digital lending platforms, Sule said, there is no regulation for such NBFCs and borrowers are harassed.

With regard to the farmers' issues, she said the government should take all political parties in confidence.

Union minister Giriraj Singh on Wednesday said the nearly empty Opposition benches in Lok Sabha during the general discussion on the Union Budget showed its double standards.

When BJP member Ganesh Singh was speaking on the budget, Giriraj Singh pointed at the nearly empty benches of the opposition and said it showed the "double standards" of Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

K Suresh, who was in the Chair, said he was present in the House.

At this, Giriraj Singh said Suresh was sitting in the House as a presiding officer and not as a (Congress) member.

Rajya Sabha

The Centre on Wednesday gave written replies in the Rajya Sabha on several important issues, including the Hathras gangrape case and prior information about arrests in terror-related cases.

Various Opposition parties raised objections in the Rajya Sabha to a bill for developing the major ports of the country.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh will make a statement in Rajya Sabha on Thursday regarding the ‘Present Situation in Eastern Ladakh’, said the Raksha Mantri's Office on Twitter.

The Chinese defence ministry on Wednesday claimed Indian and Chinese troops at the south and north banks of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh have started disengagement. There was no comment from the Indian side.

'HC monitoring Hathras case'

The Centre informed Parliament that the Allahabad High Court is monitoring the CBI probe into the rape-and-murder of a 19-year-old woman in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh as directed by the Supreme Court.

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the apex court had observed that since the Uttar Pradesh police was divested of the probe and the Central agency is carrying out the investigation, there would be no room for apprehensions at this stage.

He said the investigation into the Hathras rape-and-murder case has been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the recommendation of the state government through a gazette notification of 10 October, 2020.

'5,922 arrested in terror cases between 2016 and 2019'

As many as 5,922 people were arrested in different parts of the country between 2016 and 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the government informed Parliament.

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said according to the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of people arrested under the UAPA in 2019 was 1,948.

A total of 5,922 people were arrested under the anti-terror law between 2016 and 2019, while 132 people were acquitted during the said period, the minister added.

Debate on Port Authorities Bill

The Congress, TMC, SP, RJD, DMK, CPI(M) and CPI expressed objections to the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020.

Participating in the debate, Shaktisinh Gohil (Congress) alleged that the loopholes in the draft copy of the bill were deliberately kept in order to help the "backdoor entry of the friends" into the sector.

Gohil's party colleague and former shipping minister GK Vasan said in the world of cut-throat market competition, fixing tariff by the port authority should not be at the cost of the ports' revenue.

P Wilson of the DMK alleged that the bill has been brought to serve the interests of private players and reduce the state governments' say in the development of ports.

On a provision in the bill that says the port''s master plan will overtake the state''s master plan, he said, "the master plan has been hijacked".

With inputs from PTI

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