RS concludes debate on Motion of Thanks to President's speech; LS sees another day of near washout
Session in the Rajya Sabha could only progress after the Opposition parties in the Upper House agreed to the government's proposition of raising farmers' issues as part of debate on Motion of Thanks. The Lok Sabha, however, has seen no headway
The Rajya Sabha on Friday concluded the discussion on Motion of Thanks to the President's address while the Opposition parties continued to insist on the repealing of three contentious farm laws, which have spurred a massive farmers' movement along Delhi's borders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reply to the motion on Monday when the House reconvenes at 9 am.
Lok Sabha, meanwhile, experienced another day of a near washout as even the first of speeches on the Motion of Thanks is yet to be completed because of loud, unabated protests from the Opposition. There was no legislative business either as members stormed the well and raised slogans against the Central Government. The Speaker, however, did hold a very brief Question Hour and some papers were laid on the table.
Both the government and Opposition have been blaming each other for the logjam in the Lower House. While the Centre insists that Opposition should agree to pass the Motion of Thanks as is customary and discuss farmers' issue afterwards, the Opposition parties are adamant that all other business needs to be adjourned and the farmers' issue must be taken up foremost.
Session in the Rajya Sabha could only progress after Opposition parties agreed to the government's proposition of raising farmers' issues as part of the debate on Motion of Thanks. The Lok Sabha, however, has seen no headway on that count even as the Parliamentary Affairs minister has claimed that the Opposition had agreed to let the Motion of Thanks pass in a closed-door meeting.
Various opposition parties like the Shiv Sena, SAD, NCP, Samajwadi Party and Left parties on Friday demanded in the Rajya Sabha that the three new farm laws are repealed and fresh ones brought after wider consultations.
Participating in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's address, the members of Opposition parties criticised the government for dubbing the farmers protesting against the farm laws as "anti-nationals" and for "defaming" their agitation.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that anyone speaking the truth is dubbed as a "traitor" or "anti-national" and that cases of sedition have been slapped against those criticising the government.
Participating in the debate, he said farmers fighting for their rights have been branded as "anti-nationals" or "Khalistanis".
He said the farmers, who were known as 'warriors' when they fought the Mughals and the British, are now dubbed as anti-nationals when they are fighting for their rights on Delhi's borders.
Raut said farmers from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, who are sitting on the borders of Delhi, are fighting for the peasants from across the country and demanded that their voice be heard and the farm laws are repealed.
"We heard minister Dharmendra Pradhan asking us to listen to the truth. For the last six years, we have been listening to the truth, even the untruth dubbed as truth. The atmosphere in the country today is such that anyone writing the truth is dubbed as a traitor and anti-national," he alleged.
"When the farmers are uniting and fighting for their rights, you see anti-national acts.
"They are not anti-nationals or 'Khalistanis'. Till the time this movement is alive, the nation will remain alive and this 'andolan'.
"If you would have built such barricades at the international borders, as those put up at Delhi borders, China would not have dared to come into Indian territory," the Sena member said.
Praful Patel (NCP) said the Centre and states have together fought the COVID-19 pandemic along with medical professionals and the mortality rate in the country was low as compared to other countries.
He said when the government is talking of working for the welfare of farmers, why did it not send the farm laws to the Select Committee for wider consultations to avoid the situation that has arisen now.
"On our demand, had the government sent the bills to a Select Committee for wider consultations, the scenes witnessed today around Delhi would not have been witnessed. What was the hurry to bring these laws?" he said.
Patel sought to clarify that former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's letter of 2007 is being circulated to misrepresent the facts.
"The 2007 letter he wrote to chief ministers was to seek their comments on the amendment to farm laws. The Bill was never brought in the Parliament. The government, however, is unnecessarily raising the issue to misrepresent facts," he said.
The NCP leader said if the government is ready to put these laws in abeyance for 1.5 years, why does it not repeal them and bring new ones after proper consultations.
BSP member Satish Chandra Misra demanded that the government repeal the three new farm laws and also provide a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) on all crops, alleging that the government's intention is not clear.
Misra slammed the government for trying to stop farmers' protest and alleged that multi-layered barricades, barbed wires and iron nails studded on roads have been put up on Delhi-borders.
He said water and electricity supplies have been cut and access to toilets have also been stopped.
"This is a human rights violation," he added.
"I am not able to understand when you (the government) are ready to suspend the laws for 1.5 years, what is stopping you to withdraw these Acts," he said, urging the government to shed its ego and accept the farmers' demand.
SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the prime minister should intervene and listen to the farmers' demands.
The Akali Dal member said the government should accept the farmers' demand to repeal the three laws. He said all Opposition parties are also demanding the same.
Dhindsa said he had written to the prime minister when Ordinances were brought but did not get any reply. He said agriculture is a state subject and the Centre is weakening the federal system by bringing these farm laws.
Highlighting the sacrifice made by Sikhs during the country's Independence struggle, Dhindsa rued that Sikhs are being described as terrorists and Khalistanis.
Dhindsa also said there should be a scientific method to fix the MSP.
Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa demanded setting up a committee headed by a Supreme Court judge to conduct an impartial probe within two months into the incidents on 26 January that led to violence.
He compared the barricades set up at the farmers' protest site at Ghazipur with the Berlin Wall and concentration camps and took a strong objection to farmers being branded as anti-national and Khalistanis.
IUML member Abdul Wahab demanded the restoration of MPLADs fund.
Earlier, CPI member Binoy Viswam hit out at the government for terming the economic crisis as an act of God and said the policies of the government are squarely responsible for the situation and not the almighty.
Lok Sabha proceedings were a virtual washout on Friday as a relentless protest by Opposition members against the Centre's three farm laws continued for another day. Lok Sabha was adjourned first till 6 pm after Opposition members disrupted the proceedings demanding the repeal of the three farm laws and shouted slogans from the Well of the House.
As soon as the House convened at 4 pm, members from the Congress, Left parties and the DMK rushed to the Well raising slogans against the new laws and holding placards.
Speaker Om Birla continued with the Question Hour with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan responding to supplementary questions on COVID-19 vaccination.
As Opposition members continued to raise slogans, Birla appealed to them to participate in the Question Hour as an important issue related to vaccination was being discussed.
While Congress, DMK and Left members were in the Well, members from the TMC did not participate in raising slogans. Around 4.15 pm, Birla adjourned the House till 6 pm.
With no letup in the protests when the House reconvened in the evening, the Speaker adjourned its proceedings till Monday after his plea to opposition members to go back to their seats went unheeded.
Tomar defends farm laws, says Opposition offered no valid criticism
Defending the new farm laws, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government's offer to amend them to assuage farmers' sentiments did not mean they had any flaws and none from the protesting unions or their sympathisers have been able to point out any lacuna.
Countering the Opposition's claim that farmers across the country are agitated over the three laws, he said in the Rajya Sabha that peasants of just one state are being misinformed and instigated.
In an apparent reference to a booklet released by the Congress recently, the minister slammed the party saying: "Duniya janti hai pani se kheti hoti hai. Khun se kheti sirf Congress hi kar sakti hai, BJP khun se kheti nahi kar sakti (The world knows water is required for farming. Only Congress can do farming using blood. BJP cannot do this)".
Acknowledging that the three laws are currently a burning issue, the senior minister said that Opposition parties criticised the government and even termed the three legislations as "kala kanun" (black law).
"For two months I kept asking farmer unions what is kala in the laws so that I can try to rectify. But I could not get the answer... Also, nobody (from Opposition benches) tried to point out the provisions in the laws which are against farmers," he said.
Tomar, along with two other Union ministers has held 11 meetings with farmers' representatives in wake of the ongoing protests. But the deadlock still continues.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at different borders of the National Capital demanding the repeal of 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 Supreme Court has stayed their implementation till further order.
The farmers are also demanding a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
The government, Tomar stressed, is committed to the welfare of farmers and to the continuation of the 'mandi' system of procurement of crops on MSP-based mechanism.
The laws give farmers alternatives to sell their produce outside 'mandis', and unlike the state government notified market places, such sale would not attract any tax, he said.
"The agitation should have been against the tax levied (by the state government) on sales made in mandis but strangely the protests are against freeing of the system from such taxes," he said, intervening during the discussion on a motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at the start of the Budget Session.
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