Union Home minister Amit Shah's announcement regarding a nationwide updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and a status report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir constituted the highlights of the third day of the Winter Session of Parliament.
Even as Shah made a countrywide pitch for the NRC process, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee assured people she will never allow such a citizen register in the state.
The Lok Sabha also passed the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to raise the monetary limits for chit funds and to provide higher commission for "foremen".
For the third consecutive day, the Congress protested the removal of Special Protection Group (SPG) cover from the Gandhi family and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. The Indian Youth Congress organised a Parliament Gherao to oppose the government's move, even as the Congress' Anand Sharma raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, the Union home ministry said that the visit of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir was a private visit at the invitation of a Delhi based think tank. The ministry further said that Opposition members from within the country were not allowed to visit the Valley due to security concerns.
No question of any discrimination in NRC, says Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the NRC process will be carried out across the country, and made it clear there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion.
Shah told the Rajya Sabha that all citizens of India irrespective of religion will figure in the NRC list. There is no provision in the NRC that people belonging to other religions will not be included in the register, he added.
He said the Centre accepts that refugees - Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis - who left Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to religious atrocities should get Indian citizenship.
"The process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be carried out across the country. No one irrespective of their religion should be worried. It is just a process to get everyone under the NRC," he said replying to a supplementary during Question Hour.
"People from all religions who are Indian citizens will be included. There is no question of any discrimination on the basis of religion. NRC is a different process and the Citizenship Amendment Bill is different," Shah said.
However, Mamata Banerjee said the NRC in Assam was part of the Assam Accord signed during the tenure of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and that the exercise can never be implemented across the country.
"There are few people who are trying to create disturbances in West Bengal in the name of implementation of the NRC. I want to make it very clear, we will never allow NRC in Bengal".
On Wednesday, Shah also said in Rajya Sabha that total normalcy prevails in Kashmir with government offices and educational institutions functioning fully, but Internet connection will be restored after the local administration feels it is fit to do so.
He also asserted that not a single person has died in police firing since 5 August when the Centre abrogated special status of the state, although many feared there would be bloodshed and more killings.
The home minister said that internet is important in the present day world and it should be restored as early as possible. It is an effective means of communication, he noted.
"However when it comes to the security of Jammu and Kashmir and for waging war against terrorism, we have to fix our priorities," he said.
'European delegation that toured Kashmir was on private visit' : Home ministry
A group of European parliamentarians that recently visited Kashmir was on a "private visit" to the country, the government informed Parliament.
"The government of Jammu and Kashmir has reported that a group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), who belonged to different political parties, including ruling and opposition parties, paid a private visit to India from October 28, 2019, to November 1, 2019, at the invitation of the International Institute for Nonaligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank," Union minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.
He also informed the House that an Indian delegation of MPs was not allowed to visit Kashmir due to security concerns.
Opposition parties had attacked the government over the EU delegation's tour of Kashmir after Indian politicians and MPs were not allowed to travel to the Valley after abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status on 5 August.
Reddy was responding to a set of questions that sought to know which institution organised and bore the expenses of this Kashmir tour, and whether the institution that organised it was working as a coordinating institution for the central government.
In a separate reply, the minister said such visits or exchanges promote "deeper" people-to-people contact.
"Meetings were facilitated for the MEPs, as has been done previously on familiarisation visits for the visiting members of parliament of different countries...Further, the MEPs had expressed their desire that they would like to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism is affecting India and how this has been a challenge for India," Reddy said.
They got a sense of the threat of terrorism and how terrorism poses a threat to India, especially in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, he said.
"Such exchanges promote deeper people-to-people contact and ultimately, it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop," the minister said.
Lok Sabha passes Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill
After a lengthy debate that spanned three days, the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. The Bill raises the monetary limits for chit funds and introduces a higher commission for "foremen," or the officials who are responsible for managing the chits.
The Bill also introduces words such as "fraternity fund", "rotating savings" and "credit institution" to make chit funds more respectable, said Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur.
The maximum chit amount is proposed to be raised from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh for those managed by individuals or less than four partners, and from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 18 lakh for firms with four or more partners. The maximum commission for the foremen is proposed to be raised from 5 percent to 7 percent.
Anand Sharma seeks restoration of SPG cover for Gandhis, Manmohan Singh
Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded in Rajya Sabha restoration of the SPG cover to the Gandhi family and former prime minister Manmohan Singh by "rising above partisan politics" but senior BJP leaders maintained the decision was taken by the home ministry based on threat perception.
Sharma, however, said there was a clear evaluation of threat perceptions to the four leaders and withdrawal of SPG cover makes them vulnerable.
"It is the responsibility of the State to protect its leaders," he said, while pointing out that the Congress-led UPA government had not disturbed security cover of former prime ministers, including that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and also of other protectees.
Thee security cover was neither diluted nor withdrawn during the 10-years of UPA rule, he added. He further said that after withdrawal of the SPG cover to Gandhis and Singh there are concerns which are well founded.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 20, 2019 21:46:22 IST