The deadlock over the nature of debate on demonetisation persisted for the third week in the Lok Sabha on Monday with the Opposition accusing the government of running away from discussion under a rule that entails voting despite the decision causing havoc for the common man.
“Why is the 56-inch afraid? Why is government running away from debate... Don’t be afraid of voting. We want voting,” chanted opposition members despite Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressing readiness for an immediate debate and leaving the issue of the nature of debate to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The debate on demonetization has been listed in Monday’s agenda under Rule 193.
Attacking the government for the ‘faulty’ execution of demonetisation, Opposition members alleged that a large number of people have died, lakhs rendered unemployed with farmers and traders being the worst hit.
People are unable to get their salary and pension, Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress) and Sudip Bandopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) said.
Kharge said 17 opposition parties have now decided to seek a debate under Rule 184 that also entails voting instead of Rule 56 under which an adjournment motion is taken up.
Putting forth a stout defence, the home minister insisted that the decision has been taken in national interest and it would strengthen the economy and curb black money and graft.
As regards difficulty in implementation, he said the government is willing to the Opposition’s suggestions and they must start a debate immediately without fussing over rules.
As Congress and TMC members protested, he said even the Opposition ranks were divided over the rule governing the debate as he pointed out that A P Jithender Reddy of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti had given a notice for discussion under Rule 193, which does not entail voting.
Singh said the decision should be left to the speaker.
The speaker wanted members to take up the debate without any rules and said whether to take up division of votes on this or not can be decided later.
This was not acceptable to opposition members who again stormed the Well chanting slogans and targeting the prime minister.
Kharge targeted the government following Singh’s statement and wondered if the opposition members raising concerns of farmers and labourers were traitors.
Attacking the government, Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party) said 16 people have died in his party-ruled Uttar Pradesh due to demonetisation and alleged that the government had taken the decision on suggestions of big industrialists.
“You should call an all-party meeting. If you had to do it, we should also have been taken into confidence,” he said, inviting barbs from treasury benches.
Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal) said there cannot be ‘bahasbandi’ (stopping debate) in the name of ‘notebandi’ (note ban), and alleged that 105 people have died so far due to the hardships faced at bank or ATM queues.
Reddy said Modi’s intention to curb black money was welcome but the decision’s implementation is a problem. “People are facing a lot of problem. Whether under Rule 193 or 184, let there be a debate,” he said.
As opposition members continued with vociferous protests, the Chair adjourned the House for the day.
Earlier, as soon as the House assembled for the day, Kharge said the Opposition was ready to initiate the debate under Rule 184 instead of their original demand for it to be held under Rule 56, and the government must now agree to it.
“We have come down from Rule 56 to Rule 184. Now the government should also come down from Rule 193 and agree to Rule 184,” he said.
The government has been maintaining that it was ready for a debate on demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes under Rule 193 that does not entail voting.
Opposition parties continued their tirade against the government in Rajya Sabha over the woes of employees and the pensioners due to the cash crunch following demonetisation, as vociferous protests forced the wash out of the first half of the day’s proceedings.
Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and TMC members trooped into the Well of the House raising slogans demanding the government’s reply on the problems faced by employees and pensioners, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the proceedings till noon and again till 2 pm as similar scenes continued.
Soon after the Upper House mourned the death of two of its former members and the listed papers were laid, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “The government employees and pensioners are not getting their salaries. I want to know from the government if there is a financial emergency.”
He said there is no cash in ATMs located even in the Parliament complex. “When we are not getting money from ATMs in Parliament, how do we expect it outside? It seems there is a financial emergency.”
Stating that it is a serious issue, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien called members to resume the discussion on demonetisation that began on November 16.
“I am agreeing that you are raising a important and serious issue. It is for the government to reply. You start discussion. If all of you shout, what is the benefit? The only remedy is discussion,” he said.
But unrelenting Opposition members trooped into the Well raising slogans – ‘Janata ka paisa, janata ko do (give people their money)’, ‘Hosh mein aao, hosh mein aao, Pradhan Mantri House mein aao (Come to your senses, PM come to the House)’.
As protesting members started shouting at high pitch, Kurien said: “You want a solution to the problem, then go back and raise the issue. Then the government will reply. This is not the way. There is anarchy in the House. I am not going to adjourn. Slogan shouting is no solution. You will get certain headlines in newspapers and nothing more. I will not adjourn.”
The Treasury benches countered the Opposition shouting ‘we want discussion, we want discussion’.
As the Opposition members refused to heed to the Chair’s repeated pleas to return to their seat, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu suggested the Chair to take up the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014.
Opposition members did not heed to this, even as Naresh Agarwal (SP) said that the entire nation has been crippled due to demonetisation. As the protests continued, the House was adjourned till noon.
When the House met at noon, members were on their feet raising uproar.
While Chairman Hamid Ansari called for taking up the Question Hour, his pleas did not evoke any response as members kept speaking out of turn.
“It is your Question Hour,” he said as Opposition members shouted ‘No’.
With Anand Sharma (Congress), Naresh Agrawal (SP), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Satish Misra (BSP) and Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) speaking at the same time, no one could be heard.
Incidentally, the microphones of Opposition leaders speaking were put off and only that of the Chairman and the member raising the question were working.
As pandemonium prevailed in the House, Ansari said, “Nobody is being heard.”
Meanwhile, Congress, TMC members and those of some other Opposition parties were standing in the aisles raising slogans and demanding the presence of the prime minister in the House for the demonetisation debate to resume.
As uproar continued, the Chairman adjourned the House till 2 pm.
When the House reassembled at 2 pm, Agarwal said he went to Air India office where he was surrounded by employees to complain that they have not been paid salaries.
"An explosive situation has developed," he said raising the issue of government employees not being paid salaries following demonetisation of old high denomination currency last month.
In the meantime, several Opposition members were up on their feet speaking all at go.
Congress members were heard shouting ‘janta ka paisa janta ko do'.
Amid din, Deputy Chairman Kurien permitted Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot to move ‘The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014’ for passage.
Kurien sought cooperation from the protesting members for passage of the bill saying it is a ‘non-controversial’ legislation and should be approved. The Bill could not be passed amid the din.
"You honourable members, you are shouting. You should not do so," Kurien said in another bid to restore order in the House as Congress members raised full-throated slogans from Well of the House.
Members from treasury benches insisted for passage of the bill moved by Gehlot and continuation of the debate on demonetisation.
Kurien also warned Sasikala Pushpa, expelled from the AIADMK, for carrying a placard with message ‘Save Our Amma’.
Referring to the non-payment of salaries to employees, Anand Sharma (Congress) said, “Over the weekend, the situation has worsened.”
He said a large number of people have lost jobs following government’s ‘disastrous mismanagement’ of demonetisation and asked the Centre to ‘rectify’ the ‘suffering inflicted’ by the government on the people.
Sharma also stressed that members were in favour passage of the Disabilities Bill, but added, “When the House is not in order, the Bill cannot be passed.”
Sharma also alleged that ruling party members were creating disturbances in the House.
Bhupinder Singh (Bharatiya Janata Party) raked up issues relating to 2G and coal scams, as he asked the Congress members to continue the debate on demonetisation.
Agarwal (SP) said the Opposition has said they would cooperate in government work but the government has made the entire country ‘disabled’ as the people were facing problems due to demonetisation.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi objected to a word used by Agarwal, which the Chair later expunged.
As Tapan Sen (CPI-M) tried to raise his point, Kurien said, “You are raising a valid point, why don’t you raise it in an order.”
Referring to non-payment of salaries to employees, Rajiv Shukla (Congress) said if the situation was not so, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was in the House, should have refuted it.
Another senior Congress MP Satish Sharma wondered whether the government has become ‘bankrupt’ as it was not paying salaries to employees.
Kurien said the disability bill cannot be passed amid din and adjourned the House for the day, as the noisy protests continued.