Parliament Monsoon Session Day 9: Uproar over Assam NRC draft, Rohingya issue stall proceedings
A day after Assam NRC debate led to unrest in Parliament, debates on the issue led to adjournment of Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, following Amit Shah's comments.
A day after a debate on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam led to stormy sessions in Parliament, the citizenship draft once again triggered a ruckus, leading Venkaiah Naidu to adjourn the Rajya Sabha for the day early. This was after the Opposition created an uproar in the Upper House on Tuesday after BJP president Amit Shah's remarks that the NRC draft was similar to the Assam Accord, which he said the Congress did not have the courage to implement.
The ninth day of the Monsoon Session witnessed heated exchanges on the NRC final draft and the Rohingya issue in both Houses.
NRC draft issue
Ahead of the ninth day of Monsoon Session, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury gave an adjournment motion notice in the Lok Sabha over the NRC Assam final draft. After Chowdhury, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saugata Roy also gave an adjournment motion notice in the Lower House over register.
Leaders of the TMC and Samajwadi Party had met before the Parliament session to protest against over 40 lakh names being excluded from the draft NRC released in Assam on Monday.
As the debate over the draft began in the Upper House, Opposition TMC forced the proceedings to be adjourned till noon. Amid the uproar, Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu told members that Union home minister Rajnath Singh will come to the House after attending to his duties in the Lok Sabha and reply to the "sensitive and serious matter".
TMC leader Derek O'Brien wanted his notice under Rule 267, which calls for setting aside the day's business to take up an issue, to be addressed. TMC members, who on Monday had led the protests that saw Rajya Sabha proceedings being adjourned without transacting any business, vociferously protested from the aisles again on Tuesday.
As other members joined in, Naidu adjourned the proceedings till noon. Before doing so, he pointed out that the home minister had, on his request, come to the House on Monday but could not make a statement.
In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the issue of the NRC was discussed at length on Monday and the home minister has given a reply at length and this discussion cannot continue every day.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the onus of identity proof should not only be on individuals but also on the government. After the session resumed, he said that individuals should not be harassed because of this NRC since everyone is not literate enough to understand the rules properly.
The senior Congress leader added that NRC must not be politicised and used as a vote bank. Several members of the Parliament requested the chairman to consider the humanitarian angle of the NRC. They asked if illiterate Indians are left out of NRC draft, where will they go.
CPI leader D Raja said the NRC draft has a potential to impact relations with Bangladesh and disrupt harmony among states. He added that government must ensure that none of the genuine Indians must be omitted from the register.
Naidu said the Assam NRC issue had a historical background as it was deep-rooted in the Assam Accord. He said that he has asked Rajnath to attend the House on Tuesday after finishing answering questions in Lok Sabha.
"How many of this 40 lakh who have been left out of the NRC draft are Bangladeshi intruders and why does the Opposition want to rescue them," asked Shah. As sloganeering began, Naidu asked Shah to continue. The Opposition stormed the Well of the House leading to its adjournment for the day.
In Lok Sabha, the government informed the House that some of the Rohingya migrants living in India have been involved in illegal activities. The government also made it clear that Rohingyas do not have the status of "refugee" but are "illegal migrants". Responding to a series of supplementaries, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the government has reported that some of the Rohingya have been involved in illegal activities but he would refrain from getting into details.
He said since they are illegal migrants, they are not entitled to any government facility. The minister said the priority of the government is to take care of rights of Indian citizens. He said though they have not been given legal documents like ration cards, if they have acquired such facilities, it must have been done through illegal means. The states, he said, have to ensure that such illegal migrants do not get legal documents so that they do not stake claim to citizenship at a later date.
Rajnath said the BSF and the Assam Rifles guarding international borders have been sensitised to ensure that such illegal migrants do not enter the country. In February this year, Singh said, the latest advisory has been sent to the states asking them to confine Rohingya in one place and keep them under watch. He said states have also been asked to carry out the enumeration of such people and also collect their biometric details.
He said though states have a right under the Foreigners Act to deport illegal migrants, state governments have been asked to collect details about Rohingyas and share it with the home ministry. The home ministry would then urge the Ministry of External Affairs to take up their deportation with Myanmar.
TMC MP Saugata Bose said India has a history of sheltering refugees and the government must do the same with the Rohingyas. Rijiju hit back, saying he was saddened by the stand of Bose.
He said though India is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, it has been "soft" on such migrants. He said there is a need to have a system to check such migrants in the interest of the country and Indian citizens. He said India has set up facilities for Rohingyas in Rakhine State in Myanmar and its track record on humanitarian assistance should not be questioned.
In an apparent slip of the tongue, Rijiju referred to refugees from Sri Lanka as those from Tamil Nadu. It led to slogan shouting from members of the Opposition, including the Congress and the Left. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the minister has rectified himself and it was a slip of the tongue, which she said can happen.
Rijiju also said that the maximum number of Rohingyas are in Jammu and Kashmir. They are also in Hyderabad, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.
Apart from the Rohingya issue and the NRC discussion, the issue of farm loan waiver was taken up in Lok Sabha where agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said Andhra Pradesh has been supported in every possible way. "We don't neglect any state," he said. Congress leader SP Muddahanumegowda recalled how noted economist and former prime minister Manmohan Singh had waived off farmer loans. He also sought farm loan waivers, claiming farmers commit suicide due to increase in debt.
Citizenship Amendment Bill
The Lok Sabha extended the time for the joint parliamentary committee to submit its report on the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The panel, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, was constituted on 23 August, 2016. It has till the first day of the last week of the Winter Session to submit its report.
The Winter Session of Parliament usually begins in November.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Bill seeks to the grant citizenship to people of minority communities such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India, instead of 12 years even if they do not possess any proper document.
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment), 2018
The Lok Sabha passed The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment), 2018, on Tuesday after the Opposition attacked the government for trying to benefit a particular corporate by seeking to amend the law. The Opposition called the Bill tainted and demanded that it be referred to a Standing Committee.
However, the government said the amendments to the law were intended to provide relief to home-buyers and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
As per the amendments, the MSME sector would get a special dispensation under the Code. The amendments also do not disqualify the promoter to bid for his enterprise undergoing insolvency process provided he is not a willful defaulter.
Moving the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018, Union minister Piyush Goyal said: "We want to address the concerns expressed of the MSME sector and home-buyers. We have learnt from two years of implementation of the IBC, and through the amendments, we want to strengthen IBC Bill."
Participating in the debate on the measure, Congress leader Veerappa Moily said the National Company Law Tribunal has become "an instrument for siphoning off funds" of the treasury as banks were taking huge haircuts and corporates were buying out insolvent companies for paltry sums.
Moily, a former corporate affairs minister, said if the Bill was referred to the Standing Committee, then it would submit its report within 15 days. Moily is the chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance.
NK Premachandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) said the promulgation of the IBC (Amendment) Ordinance was a "clear case of crony capitalism", saying it intended to benefit a particular industrial house.
Questioning the government's urgency in bringing the IBC Ordinance when the Monsoon Session was just a month away, P Venugopal (AIADMK) said a perception was being built that the government has brought in the amendment Bill to facilitate one corporate house.
Saugata Roy said the government was leading the country to a "blind alley" and the IBC should not be seen as a panacea for all illness.
CPM leader P Karunakaran also questioned the objective behind the bringing the ordinance. He said the government has resorted to the amendments to benefit a particular company.
The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha by Goyal last week, replaces the Ordinance which was approved by the Union Cabinet in May.
In his concluding remarks on Tuesday, Goyal said that the cases of loan recovery that are troubling India took place before 2014. "Earlier, the person who would take loan of smaller amount would be stressed to repay the sum, but those taking loans in larger amount were carefree. We have changed that situation. Now, the loans are coming back to the banks,' he said.
Hitting out at Goyal, Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge said: "BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said that the UPA government was behind the non-performing assets in India. According to records, today the amount stands at Rs 12 lakh crore. The reason for it is that the BJP is patting its back to claim they have done a good job."
Kharge said the Congress will oppose the Bill, after which his party leaders staged a walkout.
Earlier, when the Lok Sabha was discussing the IBC Bill, Saugata Roy asked Goyal to clarify whether he was the caretaker finance minister. "Before I start my speech, I would like to ask a question. Is Piyush Goyal a caretaker finance minister or a full-fledged finance minister," the TMC leader said.
To this, Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai remarked that Goyal had already said in his speech that Arun Jaitley was the finance minister. Roy, however, pointed out that the IBC amendment Bill had Goyal's name as the Minister of Rail, Coal and Finance.
Goyal was given the additional charge of the finance ministry on 14 May when then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley underwent a kidney transplant. Jaitley is still recuperating from the surgery.
With inputs from agencies
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