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Amid din, govt introduces two Bills in Lok Sabha

ALTHOUGH THE ruckus over the Pegasus spyware row and the farmers’ protests continued to rock both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, the absence of a united Opposition protest appears to have given some relief to the government, which has been on the defensive over the snooping allegations.

Despite the Lok Sabha witnessing repeated adjournments, the Treasury benches managed to introduced two Bills – the Inland Vessels Bills 2021 to promote economical and safe transportation and trade through inland waters, and the Essential Defence Services Bill 2021, which seeks to provide for the maintenance of essential defence services – amidst the din.

The lower House, however, did not transact any other business for the third consecutive day.

In the morning, when the House met, MPs from the Congress and its ally DMK rushed to the well, raising placards demanding the repeal of the three contentious farm laws and shouting slogans such as “We demand justice for farmers”. On the other side of the Speaker’s seat, TMC MPs shouted slogans against alleged “jasoosi [snooping]” by the government.

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Also in the well of the House were YSRCP MPs, who held placards demanding development projects for Andhra Pradesh, as NCP and BSP MPs stood near their seats in protest.

Speaker Om Birla’s attempts to take up Question Hour were futile as the protesting MPs created chaos at the centre of the House. “You have been sent to this House to debate and discuss people’s issues. There can be discussions on any issue. This House is for debate, slogan shouting should be done outside,” the Speaker said.

With the members continuing to shout slogans, the Speaker adjourned proceedings for 45 minutes.

When the House met again, the Chair allowed the two Bills to be introduced. Although many opposition MPs had given notices opposing the introduction of the Bills, only RSP’s N K Premachandran spoke, objecting to the introduction of the Essential Defence Services Bill. He argued that the provisions in the Bill would “curtail the rights of the workers to strike, which is a democratic right of the workers”.

Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said the fears were “baseless”and the “rights and concerns of every worker is taken into consideration while drafting the Bill”.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi reiterated that the government was ready to discuss any issue but the Opposition has been disrupting proceedings.

While the Opposition indicated that the protests would continue on Friday, sources in the government said they expect normalcy to return to the House by next week. The Opposition’s failure to unite under one issue – be it the Pegasus row or farm laws – and stage a united protest appears to have given the Treasury benches hopes that the House could transact business next week, the sources said.

Sources in the BJP said the Congress party’s dilemma on whether it should stick to the farmers’ issue, as it has high stakes in poll-bound Punjab, or join the TMC over the Pegasus row has “created cracks” in the opposition offence.

The government, which had taken a strong stand against the protesting farmers, has remained silent about the protests seeking repeal of the farm laws on the floor of the House.

“Neither the party nor the government thinks that the farmers’ protests would have the same punch as last year’s. We are of the view that the farmer protests, which are already in a restrained way, is not likely to create troubles for the government now,” said a senior BJP MP.

Source: Indian Express

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