Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday alleged that marshals manhandled women MPs in Parliament, claiming that there was a “war-like atmosphere” in the Upper House, reported The Hindu.
Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have been adjourned sine die (with no appointed date for resumption) two days ahead of the scheduled end of the Monsoon Session on August 13.
This came after security staff were deployed in huge numbers in the House to prevent the repetition of Tuesday’s events during which Opposition MPs had created a ruckus, climbing atop tables and throwing papers, according to PTI. They had demanded that the Centre withdraw the farm laws and alleged that the discussion proposed by the government was a bluff.
On Wednesday, chaos erupted again when the insurance amendment bill to privatise the state-run general insurance companies was taken up. Opposition MPs stormed into the Well of the Upper House and shouted anti-government slogans.
The MPs, however, could not reach Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who was protected by a wall of about 50 security staff, according to PTI.
The staff was deployed in a cross-gendered manner – male marshals were positioned near women MPs and female officers were near the male legislators.
However, the Opposition MPs, including those from the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, continued their agitation.
The legislation, the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021, was passed by a voice vote in a matter of minutes with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman not replying to brief points raised by the MPs.
Opposition parties had wanted the bill to be referred to a select committee.
On the allegations about manhandling, National Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said that in his 55 years of parliamentary career, he had never seen the way the women MPs were attacked in the Rajya Sabha, reported ANI. “More than 40 men and women were brought into the House from outside,” Pawar alleged. “It is painful. It is an attack on democracy.”
Kharge said that women were not even safe in Parliament.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi also alleged that male marshals manhandled the women MPs. “You speak about Beti Bachao Beti Padhao [a popular slogan of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance] but you were trying to stall our voice,” she said.
Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh said that the situation in the Parliament was an indication of what the future holds. He said that it was possible that armed police personnel would soon enter the Parliament.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: “Modi-Shah’s brutal government now using “GENDER SHIELDS” to foil MP protests inside Rajya Sabha. Male marshals for women MPs. Female marshals posted in front of male MPs.”
Venkaiah Naidu breaks down while criticising Opposition ruckus
Earlier in the day, Naidu broke down in the House while criticising the conduct of some Opposition MPs.
Naidu was referring to Tuesday proceedings. The Rajya Sabha chairman began the proceedings of the House at 11 am on Wednesday by reading out a statement on the incident. He said that the Parliament was the temple of democracy.
“I am distressed by the way the way the sacredness was destroyed yesterday,” he said. “When some members sat on the table, some members climbed on the table of the House, perhaps to be more visible with such acts of sacrilege.”
In a voice choked with emotion, Naidu said he had a “sleepless night”. “I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts,” he said added. “I struggle to find out the reason or provocation for forcing this august house to hit such a low yesterday [Tuesday].”
The Rajya Sabha chairman added: “The table area where the officers and reporters of the House, the secretary general and the presiding officer are seated is considered as the holy sanctum sanctorum. A certain degree of sacredness is attached to this place.”
He then adjourned the Rajya Sabha till noon as Opposition MPs again started shouting slogans against the Narendra Modi-led government.
The proceedings were again twice briefly adjourned in the evening as Opposition leaders tore paper and threw it up in the air.
Meanwhile, the 127th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2021, which seeks to restore the state governments’ power to make their own lists of Other Backward Classes, was passed by the Rajya Sabha as 187 members voted in its favour. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The Rajya Sabha discussed the Bill for about five hours as members from both treasury as well as Opposition benches participated in it, according to PTI.
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla adjourned the Lower House of Parliament and said that he was “extremely hurt” by the disruptions.
“I don’t have words to express my anguish over the ruckus in the House,” Birla said. “Members should maintain the dignity of Parliament and help run the House according to traditions...It is a collective responsibility.”
After the adjournment, Birla held a customary meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and others, ANI reported. He told the leaders that holding debates was the sole way to serve the people, adding that they should encourage them, NDTV reported.
Productivity of the two Houses
The Monsoon Session of Parliament has seen several disruptions over the past few weeks as the government and the Opposition reached an impasse over discussion into allegations that the Pegasus spyware was used to spy on several politicians, journalists and activists in India.
The government has refused to hold discussions on the allegations of surveillance, while the Opposition has repeatedly insisted on deliberating on the matter. The Opposition accused the government of “suppressing their voice” by not allowing a discussion on the matter. They also criticised the government “bulldozing” Bills without proper discussion.
The Rajya Sabha recorded a productivity of 28% during the session, reported ANI. As many as 17 sittings were held in the House that functioned for 28 hours and 21 minutes. Disruptions caused a loss of 76 hours and 26 minutes. Nineteen Bills were passed in the Upper House.
The productivity of the Lok Sabha stood at 22% as it could function for only 21 hours and 14 minutes, while it was supposed to sit for 96 hours during the session, Birla said. This was in sharp contrast to the last Budget session when the Lower House recorded 114% productivity.
“The productivity of the House remained below our expectations due to repeated interruptions,” the Speaker said. As many as 20 Bills were passed during the session.