On the eighth day of Winter Session, Parliament took up some key bills, including the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (Merger of Union Territories) Bill, 2019. Rajya Sabha took up a short duration discussion on the economic situation and the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
However, a major point of controversy on Wednesday was a reference by BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur to Nathuram Godse as a "patriot." The remark immediately triggered angry reactions from Opposition parties.
Pragya Thakur refers to Nathuram Godse as 'deshbhakt' in Lok Sabha
BJP member and accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case Pragya Thakur referred to Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse as a "deshbhakt" during a debate in Lok Sabha, triggering a protest by Opposition members.
We sent a terror accused to Parliament, she obviously will hail terrorists. What else did we expect?
— Zeba Warsi (@Zebaism) November 27, 2019
When DMK member A Raja cited a statement of Godse on why he killed Mahatma Gandhi during a discussion on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, Thakur interrupted and said, "You cannot give example of a deshbhakt." Raja said that Godse himself admitted that he had nursed a grudge against Gandhi for 32 years before finally deciding to assassinate him. Godse, Raja said, killed Gandhi because he believed in a particular philosophy. While the Opposition members protested the interruption by Thakur, the BJP members persuaded her to sit down. Subsequently, the Congress tweeted, "Repeatedly referring to Nathuram Godse as a 'deshbhakt' is a perfect representation of BJP's deplorable hate politics. Will Modi condemn Pragya Thakur's remarks or continue to stay silent?" However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said that Thakur's statement in the Lok Sabha will not be taken on record, and only Raja's statement will be taken on record.
However, this is not the first time that Thakur has eulogised Godse as a patriot. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Thakur, who had recently named as a candidate by the BJP, had said during a roadshow in Madhya Pradesh, ""Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot. Those who call him a terrorist should look within, they will get a reply in this election."
Reacting to her statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that he would never be able to forgive her for the statement.
"Whatever has been said about Gandhi or Godse, these kind of statements are very bad and worth contempt. In a cultured society, this type of language is not permissible. This type of thinking won't do...Therefore, those who are doing this have to think a hundred times. Though she has apologised, I won't be able to pardon her with my heart," Modi had said.
Modi govt will restore original intent of SPG Act: Amit Shah in Lok Sabha
Accusing previous governments of diluting the law governing the Special Protection Group (SPG), Home Minister Amit Shah asserted in Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the elite protection unit was raised for securing only the prime minister and amendments brought in by the Narendra Modi government will restore the original intent of the Act.
As the House took up the SPG (Amendment) Bill for discussion, Shah said the term 'Special' indicates its special purpose and noted that many countries have such elite and compact cover exclusively for their respective head of state. He said a "misconception" exists that the SPG is only about "physical protection".
"Citizens and the prime minister are all alike, but the the prime minister needs to be secured. As long as he is the prime minister, SPG will take cover. The security of the Gandhi family has not been withdrawn. Their protection is only changed, based on threat assessment. Threat assessment was very well made. CRPF will take care of them. Gandhi family given ‘Z-plus’ security with advance security liaison, ambulance. When SPG was withdrawn from ex-prime ministers Chandra Shekhar, IK Gujral, Manmohan Singh, no one uttered single word," Shah told Lok Sabha.
It is not just physical security but also about covering the prime minister's office, his health and communications as well, Shah added. He said the SPG was formed on the 1985 recommendations of the Birbal Nath committee and then a law was enacted in 1988.
However, various amendments were brought in 1991, 1994, 1999 and 2003 which diluted its purpose, Shah said, adding that the government is working to make the SPG more efficient and to rule out any negligence. One of the amendments brought family members of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, which included Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka, under the SPG cover.
The Modi government recently removed the elite cover given to them and replaced it with Z+ security. The proposed bill says the SPG will provide security to prime minister, and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence. It will also provide security to former prime ministers, and his immediate family members residing with him at the residence allotted to him for a period of five years from the date on which he or she ceases to hold the office.
Lok Sabha passes Bill to ban e-cigarettes
Lok Sabha passed a bill which sought to ban electronic cigarettes, with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan saying such a measure was necessary to protect the youth from a new intoxication being promoted by companies as a new "fashion". The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, seeks to replace an ordinance issued on September 18.
The statutory resolution moved by opposition members to oppose the ordinance were defeated by a voice vote. The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members. Speaking on the bill, Vardhan argued that lack of ban on tobacco cannot be the justification for "introducing new addiction."
To convey his point, Vardhan said if one falls from the tenth floor or sixth floor, he or she is going to get injured irrespective of the floor from which he falls. To promote e-cigarettes vaping was marketed as fashionable to influence youngsters, which will eventually lead them to addiction of intoxicant substance, so the ban was necessary, he said.
Most parties including opposition parties supported the bill but questioned the government's decision to adopt the ordinance route for the legislation. Replying to the opposition's argument, Vardhan said, "I can't be insensitive to the health of our people and the ordinance was a presumptive strike on this hazardous addiction."
He said in a country like India if hazardous addictive substances such as liquor and tobacco get accepted by the people then it becomes difficult to check them, so it is better to ban such hazardous addictive substances before their use rises.
He also underlined that these e-cigarettes besides nicotine can also enable delivery of all intoxicant substances, which is dangerous. Vardhan also insisted that chemicals in nicotine used for e-cigarette can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases and effects adolescent brains. The minister also said that the Indian Council of Medical Research issued a white paper on e-cigarette and demanded its ban. The Bill makes the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognisable offence, attracting a jail term and a fine.
First-time violators will face a jail term of up to one year and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. For subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years or a fine of Rs 5 lakh, or both, will be imposed, according to the ordinance. The storage of e-cigarettes shall also be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 50,000, or both, it said.
Rajya Sabha discusses economic situation
Rajya Sabha takes up short duration discussion on the economic situation in India. Deputy chairperson Harivansh is in the Chair. Congress leader Anand Sharma begins the debate and points out that the GDP is falling, factories are closing down, people don't have cash, agriculture is in a bad shape. The widening gap between the rich and poor is frightening. "Ten percent of rich have 40 times the share of wealth of rest of the population. The situation is not a slowdown or recession. It is neither cyclical nor structural. We are staring at a deepening economic crisis specific to India," he says.
The senior Congress leader says that this is not political. We can see that there is an issue with the credibility of data in this country. With the number of changes in the GST rate, it has further wrecked the unorganised sector, he says. "We urged the government to not impose GST in haste," says the Member. We are staring at an alarming fiscal deficit, Anand Sharma says. To meet the revenue target of the budget, ?15.4 lakh crore have to come in the next six months. Last year, there was a deficit of close to ?1.6 lakh crore. The government took from the RBI’s reserves, said Sharma.
"If factories are shut down, who will pay GST? If people lose their jobs, who will pay taxes, he asks. Fiscal deficit is more than 5 percent, says the CAG report," claimed Sharma.
BJP's Ashwini Vaishnaw responded by saying that it is a cyclical slowdown and it will bottom out by March. "The seeds of this slowdown started in 2011-13, when 2G scam and coal scam happened. The Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of natural resources which gave a huge economic shock. This was followed by populist schemes which weakened our economy," he says.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, replying to the MPs in Rajya Sabha said the Indian economy may have slowed down but there is no threat of a recession. She reeled out numbers comparison between five years under Congress-led UPA-II regime from 2009 to 2014 and BJP's first term from 2014 to 2019 to say inflation was lower and growth higher under the Modi government.
FDI inflows in 2009-14 were $189.5 billion and the same were $283.9 billion under BJP rule in the following five years, she said, adding foreign exchange reserves rose to $412.6 billion under BJP from $304.2 billion in UPA-II. "Economic growth may have slowed but there is no recession, there can be no recession," she said.
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 20:41:21 IST