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'What is the point of attending Parliament?'

By A GANESH NADAR
September 23, 2020 17:32 IST
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IMAGE: Opposition MPs march from Mahatma Gandhi's statue to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue in protest against the farm and labour bills during the monsoon session at Parliament House in New Delhi, September 23, 2020. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo

The monsoon session of Parliament has seen more than its fair share of government-Opposition friction.

But nothing like what was witnessed on Sunday, September 20, in the Rajya Sabha when two agriculture-related bills were passed.

The protests started when Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh rejected the Opposition's demand to end the day's proceedings at the scheduled 1 pm.

Opposition members rushed to the well of the House, mikes were broken, papers were torn, and amidst all this bedlam the two farm bills were passed by a voice vote, with the chair not granting a division.

The next day saw even more action, with eight Opposition MPs suspended for a week for unruly behaviour.

But they refused to leave the Parliament premises and sat on an overnight dharna on the lawns. Their protest was finally withdrawn when all the Opposition parties decided to boycott Parliament to protest their suspension.

Dr Syed Naseer Hussain, a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha and one of the eight MPs who were suspended, spoke to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com about what happened in Parliament and what the MPs are planning to do next.

Could you tell us what happened in the Rajya Sabha when the agri bills were passed?

It was 1 pm. The session was supposed to end at 1 pm. We asked Deputy Chairperson Harivansh to adjourn the house. We could have taken up the matter the next day, debated on it and put it to vote, and they (the government) would have lost.

But he refused to adjourn the House. We asked for a division vote, he refused. He did not allow us to vote. Then the hungama (bedlam) happened and we were suspended the next day.

What were your objections to the farm bills?

The first objection is that minimum support price is not included.

Then there is no clarity on what will happen after the mandis and the Agriculture Produce Market Committee outlets are closed.

Where will the farmers sell their produce?

We wanted a statement that the Centre and states will continue to buy at MSP included in the bill.

There is a severe pandemic caused by the coronavirus, there is tension at the China border, so what was the hurry to pass these bills? There is no hurry.

We wanted to refer the bill to a select committee, but they did not agree.

So you all refused the tea offered by Harivansh on Tuesday morning?

If he had adjourned the House and taken it up the next day, they would have lost. He doesn't go by the rule book, so how could we accept his tea?

The bill allows the farmer to sell his produce anywhere in the country. Isn't that good?

But sell where in the country? Where are the markets?

What happens to the small farmers who have less than five acres of land? They don't have the facility or means to store. They cannot go far as they don't have money to transport.

They will be exploited by money-lenders.

What is the guarantee that the buyers will buy at MSP? There is no guarantee.

But by boycotting the Rajya Sabha you only allowed the government to pass all their bills without opposition, isn't it?

We would love to participate in the Rajya Sabha if the government cared two hoots for parliamentary procedures.

You don't allow division. You don't allow voting. What is the point of attending Parliament?

It is undemocratic and shows fascist tendencies.

What are you planning to do next?

We are going to collect two crore (20 million) signatures against the bills and mobilise the farmers.

This evening (Wednesday, September 23 evening) all the parties are meeting the President to tell him not to sign the bills. We are going to ask him to return the bills to Parliament.

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A GANESH NADAR / Rediff.com
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