Five extra hours have been added to the duration of discussion in Rajya Sabha on a motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament to allow debate on the farmers' protest against three agri reform legislations.
The Rajya Sabha, which following COVID-19 protocols meets for five hours daily, will dispense with the scheduled Question Hour, Zero Hour and Private Member Business for the 15-hour discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address beginning Wednesday, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said.
This comes after the government and opposition parties said a consensus has been reached to extend the duration of the allotted time on the discussion on a Motion Thanking the President for his Address to the Joint Sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajaya Sabha at the beginning of the Budget Session, from the currently allocated 10 hours to 15 hours.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said, "Consensus has been arrived that more time should be given for discussion on Motion of Thanks to the President."
Requesting the Chair to agree to extend the time, he said the Question Hour can be dispensed with on Wednesday and Thursday, and the Zero Hour on Thursday to allow for the 15 hour for the debate.
Joshi said that also, as already agreed in the Business Advisory Committee, private member business scheduled for Friday can be dispensed with for the same purpose.
The House proceedings begin with the Zero Hour where members raise issues of public importance and is followed by the Question Hour where MPs put questions to the government on any issue.
Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that 18-19 opposition parties had sought a discussion on the more than two-month-long agitation by farmers at Delhi borders before the Motion of Thanks is taken up.
But the government informed that there was no precedence of taking any business ahead of the Motion of Thanks to the President, he said, adding that the opposition parties felt that if the farmers' agitation cannot be discussed as the first item of the session, extra time should be allocated in the debate on Motion of Thanks.
"So five extra hours should be allocated to discuss the subject (farmers' protest) during the Motion of Thanks debate... five standalone hours," Azad said, adding that he was thankful to the government for agreeing to the demand.
Naidu said it has been agreed to extend the duration to 15 hours. "We will go by that," he said.
Accordingly, instructions have been issued to reallocate the business, Naidu said and added that the duration of discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President would now be 14 and a half hours after considering that the debate would start after the Zero Hour on Wednesday.
Naidu said normally suspension of Zero Hour and Question Hour is not done but there have been precedences and now there is a broad agreement so "I am willing to go by that."
Amendments to the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address will be taken up after the debate.
The first Parliament session of 2021 began on Friday with President Ram Nath Kovind addressing members of both Houses of Parliament.
In the days following the President's address, a motion is moved in the two Houses thanking the President for his address. This is an occasion for MPs in the two Houses to have a broad debate on governance in the country. The prime minister replies to the motion of thanks in both Houses.
Opposition MPs have been successful in getting amendments passed to the motion of thanks in Rajya Sabha on five occasions (1980, 1989, 2001, 2015, 2016).
Rajya Sabha Chairman Naidu had on Tuesday said that members can raise the issue of farmers' protest during the debate on the motion as the President had mentioned the agitation in his speech.