Congress to raise China, Facebook, Covid-19 handling in upcoming Parliament session
Parliament’s monsoon session, which is expected to commence from September 10, is likely to be stormy as the Congress plans to raise issues like the border standoff with China in Ladakh and Facebook’s alleged nexus with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), party functionaries aware of the matter said. The Congress is also likely to target the government over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic crisis it has aggravated, job losses, and agrarian distress.
A Congress functionary said the party would demand a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the border row, especially after his remarks at the June 19 all-party meeting that there have been no intrusions by Chinese forces into Indian territory in Ladakh.
The Congress attacked Modi for refraining from naming China in his Independence Day speech, saying the government should tell the people how it proposes to push back the Chinese forces occupying Indian territory.
Military talks on reducing tensions along the disputed border in Ladakh have hit a roadblock with India adopting a tougher line in its efforts to restore status quo ante. The tensions escalated in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops.
The functionary said they will also demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Wall Street Journal report last week that claimed Facebook’s Indian staff ignored its rules in handling hate speech by BJP politicians. The Congress has alleged an “unholy nexus” between Facebook and the BJP.
The Congress wrote to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday saying the social media company may be “a willing participant in thwarting the rights and values” India’s founding leaders had sacrificed their lives for. It called for an investigation into the report.
The functionary said the Congress will also take on the government over its “mishandling” of the Covid-19 pandemic. “When Rahul Gandhi flagged the issue as early as February, he was ridiculed by the BJP. See, where we stand now. We have become the third country in the world to cross over two million Covid-19 cases. We also saw an ill-conceived lockdown that resulted in a huge economic crisis and massive job losses,” he said on condition of anonymity. “The government has to tell us why and how it failed in containing the pandemic.”
The functionary said the party will also raise the issues of job losses, agrarian distress, and the economic crisis. “We will also seek a discussion on the PM Cares Fund in the wake of the Prime Minister’s Office denying information [on it under the]...RTI [Right to Information Act]...We have been demanding transparency in the fund as it does not belong to any individual but the country.”
The Centre set up the fund on March 28 as a public charitable trust with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation such as the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unclear how much money it has raised.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea seeking the transfer of money collected for the fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). A three-judge bench held the situation because of the Covid-19 and the requirement of financial resources to deal with the pandemic have necessitated the establishment of the fund and the court cannot object to it. The Congress criticised the order. It has said the fund is not transparent and questioned the need for a PM Cares fund when NDRF exists.
The Congress will also raise the issue of the sale of 32 Public Sector Undertakings and handing over railways and airports to private parties. The functionary said the party will talk to other like-minded opposition parties to present a united front in Parliament on all critical issues confronting the country. “We will meet soon to firm up our Parliament strategy.”
The monsoon session, which usually starts in mid-July, has been deferred due to the pandemic, which led to a sweeping federal lockdown from March 25. It is expected to be short. Unprecedented logistics and infrastructure arrangements will be in place during the session. The arrangements will include ultraviolet germicidal irradiation in air-conditioning systems to kill or inactivate microorganisms, 10 display screens for live proceedings, earmarked seats for top leaders, and special communication cables linking both Houses.