House decends into chaos over farm laws
The Rajya Sabha was supposed to see a debate on agriculture, the problems that ailed it, and solutions -- the closest the government has come to giving in to the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on the three contentious farm reform laws passed last year and the ensuing and still ongoing farmers’ protest -- but what it ended up seeing for four hours on Tuesday was tumult and chaos.
At least two Opposition MPs, including Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) Sanjay Singh, sat on the table usually occupied by the staff of the Rajya Sabha secretariat (though they prefer chairs) and shouted slogans. The Congress’s Pratap Singh Bajwa, stood atop the table and tossed the House rulebook to the Chair . And Opposition MPs swarmed the Well of the House.
Two Opposition leaders later conceded that the “protests” were part of their plan; they were miffed that the debate was held on the generic topic of problems of agriculture, and not on the farm laws. Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien, however, claimed that all opposition parties will “fully support” the upcoming Constitution amendment bill that restores the rights of states to identify and define socially and economically backward classes.
A senior governmentfunctionary suggested that the government might not seek disciplinary action against opposition MPs .
“It’s like a new normal! The government bills are passed even as the Opposition disrupts the House. Immediate action against some MPs may be avoided as the government needs the Opposition’s support to pass the Constitution amendment bill.”
The Rajya Sabha earlier suspended Trinamool’s Santanu Sen for snatching papers from Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. Another six Trinamool MPs were suspended for a day for showing placards in the Well.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said: “Today, it is proven there is nothing wrong in the farm laws, it is in their (Opposition’s) perception.” He added that the Opposition is “unable to digest” PM Narendra Modi’s “measures and schemes have led to sectoral growth and prosperity in the lives of farmers”.
Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu appealed for peace in the morning of what was the sixteenth sitting of the Monsoon Session pointing out that the Upper House had functioned at the rate of just one hour per day. “Farmers’ issue, which is a larger issue, is scheduled for discussion today. If the House is not allowed to function today, a message will also go that this House is not concerned about the plight of the farmers,” he said.
But the Opposition was having none of it.
The disruptions started in a few hours when Congress chief whip Jairam Ramesh, who last week had given notice to debate farm laws, alleged that the subject of the debate was changed. “I had given notice for a Calling Attention Motion on the three black farm laws and the ongoing farmers’ agitation for the last nine to 10 months. Today I find that my name is shown against Short Duration Discussion on a general topic of ‘Agricultural Problems and Solutions’,” he said, arguing that sense of the House is required to change the nature of the debate.
Lawmakers from several Opposition parties stormed the well of the House shouting slogans against the government and demanding a repeal of the farm laws. The debate lasted for only a few more minutes. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vijaypal Singh Tomar blamed the wrong policies of the Congress for the problems of the farmers. Biju Janata Dal’s Prasanna Acharya argued that the NSSO has not made any study on farmer’s income in last few years and yet “the government claims that they have been able to double the income of the farmers”. “It is a misnomer. It is not the fact,” he said, “If you adjust the increase against inflation, the farm income remains static.”
The Upper House functioned for just 24 minutes on Tuesday.
A person aware of the developments said Parliament could be adjourned sine die after passing the Constitution amendment bill.