It’s been eight days since the opposition parties have stalled Parliament over the demonetisation issue.
Functioning of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha was disrupted, leading to their premature adjournment for the day.
In the Lok Sabha, a number of Opposition leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress, Sudip Bandhopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress and and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, pressed for acceptance of their demand for an Adjournment Motion and debate under a rule that entails voting. They also demanded presence of the prime minister during the debate.
In response, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the PM will speak on demonetisation if the Opposition wanted but the debate should take place, for which the rule will be decided by the Speaker.
Singh said it was clear that nobody was questioning the government’s intentions over demonetisation or imputing any malafide.
Even as he was speaking, opposition members trooped into the Well and shouted slogans.
Amid the din, Singh said the government is ready for a discussion and willing to listen to the complaints and suggestions different parties have over the execution of the demonetisation move.
“As far as the prime minister coming to the House is concerned, if the Opposition wants he will come and intervene,” Singh said, assuring the Opposition.
The decision regarding the rule under which the debate should take place is for the Speaker to make, he said.
He termed demonetisation as a “historic, bold and pro-poor” decision taken to target black money and in national interest.
However, as the uproar continued, the Speaker adjourned the House till 2 pm.
Earlier, Kharge said demonetisation had harmed the economic system, the farmers, youths, labourers and women among others who are in distress.
The Congress leader said over 70 people had died due to the faulty implementation of demonetisation decision.
He cited the incident of a Union minister facing difficulty in paying hospital bills after his brother died and said it was an evidence of the extent of the crisis. He was referring to Sadanand Gowda who faced the problem.
“There is only one way to break this deadlock. The PM should come to the House and the opposition’s adjournment motion should be accepted,” he said.
Bandhopadhyay of Trinamool said the government must take initiative to break the impasse as people will ask what does Parliament stand for, if it is adjourned everyday.
Supporting Kharge, Mulayam Singh said if Modi does not come to the House on such an important matter, then when he will come. Farmers are facing a lot of problems, he said.
Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal called the decision impractical and anti-people.
An All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member said the government should take initiative to ease people’s sufferings, while B Mahtab of the Biju Janata Dal said the onus was on the Centre to take steps to break the impasse.
Anandrao Adsul of BJP ally Shiv Sena targeted opposition parties, saying neither ‘Bharat Bandh’ nor ‘Aakrosh Diwas’, which different parties had announced for Monday, was visible.
He, however, lamented that the recent announcement of the Centre that NABARD would disburse Rs 21,000 crore to cooperative banks has not been implemented. The announcement had come after an unhappy Sena delegation had met the PM.
“Situation remains bad in rural areas,” he said.
When the Lok Sabha met again at 2 pm after adjournment, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rose to introduce a bill to amend the Income Tax Act allow authorities impose 75 per cent tax and 10 per cent penalty in case they detect undisclosed wealth deposited post demonetisation.
Members from the opposition parties, who were asking the Speaker to take up their adjournment motion on note ban, rushed to the Well raising slogans. Jaitley then introduced the bill amid din.
The din and slogan shouting against the government continued for another few minutes and the House was adjourned for the day, 10 minutes past 2 pm.
Meanwhile, in the Rajya Sabha, soon after the House mourned the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and the listed papers were laid, Naresh Agrawal of the Samajwadi Party said nationwide protest ‘Aakrosh Divas’ is being observed on Monday against demonetisation that has caused hardships to common man.
Leaders of other opposition parties including Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress, Sitaram Yechury of CPI-M and Anand Sharma of Congress joined in.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the nation was seething in anger over the hardship and harassment caused because of the announcement made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8.
Soon, Congress and TMC members trooped into the well of the House shouting slogans against the PM. Ruling benches also joined him by shouting slogans favouring start of a discussion on the issue.
Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu rose to state that the discussion which had started on the opening day of the Winter Session of Parliament on November 16 and has not yet concluded, should be resumed, instead of such disruption of proceedings.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien agreed with the suggestion of Naidu but the din continued, forcing him to adjourn the proceedings for half an hour.
When the House met again, the Opposition members were again on their feet shouting slogans against demonetisation.
Kurien insisted that the discussion on the demonetisation be resumed. He said the PM will come once the discussion starts.
Yechury asked why the PM was not coming to the House.
Kurien asked Yechury how he knew the PM would not come, while noting that it is already on the record that he will speak on the issue.
As the Opposition members kept shouting slogans in the Well, the Chair adjourned the House till noon.
When the House reassembled for Question Hour, Azad said he wanted to make it clear that 18 Opposition parties have decided to observe ‘Jan Aakrosh Divas’.
He said there was no discussion among them about ‘Bharat Bandh’. “If anyone has raised the issue of Bharat Bandh, it is the PM,” the Leader of Opposition said, adding Modi is responsible for Bharat Bandh.
The Congress leader said the opposition is observing the day as ‘Jan Aakrosh Diwas’ to highlight the ‘aakrosh’ (anger) across the country.
“There is ‘aakrosh’ (anger) among the youth, the women and the old against this new policy of demonetisation,” Azad said, adding that so far 75 people have lost their lives due to the government’s decision to go for demonetisation.
He said a 96-year old man had died while standing in a queue outside a bank in Chennai and a young girl had committed suicide as there was no money for her wedding.
Earlier, when Ansari allowed Azad to speak, the I&B minister said he wanted to raise a point.
Ansari, however, said the floor has already been given to Azad and if the government has a point it would be allowed later.
The treasury benches then created din, prompting the Chairman to adjourn the proceedings till 1400 hours “because the House is not being allowed to run”.
When the House met again at 2 pm, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sithraman, on behalf of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, tabled a notification providing for exemption of central excise duty for the manufacture of Point of Sale devices.
Soon after this, SP leader Naresh Aggarwal raised a Point of Order. As he started, he made certain comments about the Treasury Benches which was objected to.
The Deputy Chairman eventually expunged the remark after listening to both the sides.
Afterwards, Congress leader Anand Sharma raised a Point of Order, questioning how the government could deprive the common man of his own money in the bank accounts by limiting withdrawals.
He said the Constitution specifically says that a person cannot be deprived of his property by the government.
Sharma said there is no law under which this has been done and therefore it is illegal.
The Constitution does not allow even the PM or the government to deprive the citizens of their money and property, especially bank accounts, the Congress leader said, adding not one Bill was tabled in the House in this regard.
The PM and the government must answer, he said.
He said nearly 80 people have died due to demonetisation move while standing in queues.
Leader of Opposition Azad said this is the first time when such an announcement has been made and the PM has not given a statement in the Parliament.
Such an important decision was announced after the ongoing Winter Session was called for and before it actually began, he said.
He said the opposition has demanded discussion over the move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in both the Houses, but in the presence of the PM since he has announced the move.
He said some are saying that the Cabinet was not informed and even the finance minister did not know. Then how can the finance minister reply to the points raised by the opposition, Azad added, insisting on the presence of the prime minister.
Taking a dig at Modi, he said he can even come to the Parliament Library for events and address every rally in Uttar Pradesh but can’t come to the House. As Congress’ sloganeering followed, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government is ready for discussion like always.
He said the opposition had failed in its ‘Aakrosh Divas’ on the streets, so it was disrupting the House proceedings.
Following the ruckus, Kurien adjourned the House till Tuesday morning.