Parliament proceedings resumed on the fourth day of the Budget Session on Thursday. Members of the Opposition parties cornered the Centre over various issues in both the Houses.
In Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra said that the Centre was fearful of the future.
In the afternoon, Congress MP Ripun Bora in Rajya Sabha questioned a statement in the President’s address that not a single citizen was left hungry during the pandemic.
“But what is the reality?” Bora said. “India has fallen to the 101st place from 94th place in the Global Hunger Index. We are behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal also.”.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey gave a notice for breach of privilege and contempt of the House against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, ANI reported.
On Wednesday, Congress Rahul Gandhi criticised the Union government in connection with allegations surrounding the Pegasus spyware and foreign policy, among other matters.
Here are updates from the day:
8.08 pm: Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra asks if freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose would have approved of the call for Muslim genocide at Haridwar “dharam sansad”, or religious parliament, that took place last month.
7.09 pm: Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra says that the government used taxpayers’ money to buy technology to spy on its citizens in an apparent reference to the ongoing Pegasus spyware controversy.
On January 28, The New York Times had reported that India had purchased the Israeli spyware in 2017 as part of a $2-billion (now around Rs 14.96 thousand crore) defence package. The military-grade spyware and a “missile system” were the “centrepieces” of the package.
Last July, several media organisations across the world had reported on the use of Pegasus. In India, The Wire had reported that 161 Indians were spied on through Pegasus.
6.54 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra says that the government wants to change history. “They are fearful of the future and they mistrust the present,” she says in her address to Lok Sabha. “The President, early on in his address, speaks about freedom fighters who secured India’s rights. But this is just lip service.”
2.36 pm: States of south India are being ignored, says K Keshava Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, The Hindu reported. “The distribution of funds to states by BJP-led government fails to provide any incentive,” he says. “India is a Union of States, you have been polarising people, at the end there will be deep division in the minds of people. We have been voting for you, today we have decided we shall not be with you, not anymore.”
2.29 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal parliamentarian AD Singh asks what action has been taken against the persons who called for genocide. “I urge the government to inform the House of the actions taken so far against those who publicly called for genocide and targeted specific communities,” he says. “A strong government cannot be seen cowering down to a handful of fringe elements who are sowing discord in our society on a daily basis.”
At a “dharam sansad”, or religious parliament, held at Uttarakhand’s Haridwar city a month ago, Hindutva group members and seers had called for violence against Muslims.
1.20 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Jawhar Sircar, in his first speech in the Rajya Sabha, says that the Indian economy has been “mauled” and has never gone through such a bad patch.
“Flowery language does not mean much for those who have gone hungry, and those without jobs,” he says. Sircar claims that while 15 crore Indians were lifted out of poverty in the ten years from 2006, 14 crore have been pushed into poverty in the past two years.
1.05 pm: Congress MP Ripun Bora questions a statement in the President’s address that not a single citizen was left in hunger during the pandemic.
“But what is the reality?”Bora says. “India has fallen to the 101st place from 94th place in the Global Hunger Index. We are behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal also.”
The Global Hunger Index was released in October by Irish humanitarian agency Concern Worldwide and German organisation Welthungerhilfe.
12.50 pm: Independent MP from Assam Ajit Kumar Bhuyan says in the Rajya Sabha that although the country is facing high levels of inflation, the Budget had no mention of how relief is to be provided to the middle class and poor persons.
“Perhaps, the nation must wait for 25 more years for achhe din [good days] to arrive,” Bhuyan says.
12.30 pm: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi responds in the Rajya Sabha to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remark about “two Indias” comprising extremely wealthy people on the one hand and poor people on the other.
“It is important to get out of the mentality of ‘India is Indira, and Indira is India’, and Congress is country and the country is the Congress,” Naqvi said.
The minister also claimed that minorities from Afghanistan were brought to India after the Taliban takeover due to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
However, as this article in Scroll.in notes, the Rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act have not yet been notified, which means that the law has not yet been implemented.
11.50 am: Rashtriya Janata Dal MP AD Singh pays tribute to late Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, who died in helicopter crash on December 8. Singh questions why a successor to Rawat has not been named yet, and says that the government does not appear to have a succession plan for the post, despite it being a sensitive one.
11.40 am: Congress MP KC Venugopal asks why telecast permission of Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV was cancelled. In response, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting L Murugan says that the matter is sub-judice, The Hindu reported.
“We are not in Emergency,” Murugan remarks.
The channel went off air on Monday noon despite its licence still being valid. The channel’s management at that time had said that the government has not been “forthcoming with the details” about the suspension of the telecast.
11.25 am: Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju tells the Rajya Sabha that 83 out of 1,098 judges in High Courts are women, ANI reported. He says that he has been personally asking the Collegium tasked with appointments to the higher judiciary to give preference to women, backward communities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“We are very happy that out of a total of 34 judges in the Supreme Court, we have for the first time 4 women judges – 3 were appointed when I took over as Law Minister,” Rijiju says, according to the agency.
11.15 am: Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra says she will address the Lok Sabha on Thursday evening on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address.
11.05 am: Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey gives a notice for breach of privilege and contempt of the House in the Lok Sabha against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, ANI reported. Dubey accuses Gandhi of inciting people through his speech in Parliament on Wednesday.
10.45 am: Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju demands an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his remarks about the judiciary and the Election Commission on Wednesday. He says that the judiciary and Election Commission are vital institutions of India.
“Earlier he used to behave like India’s ‘Yuvraj’ and now he thinks he is the ‘King’ of India’” Rijiju said.
10.35 am: Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu remarks that the Upper House did not witness any disruptions on Wednesday after a long gap, The Hindu reported. “I hope this spirit will continue to prevail,” he said.
10.20 am: Several BJP leaders have responded to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the Union government in connection with allegations surrounding the Pegasus spyware and foreign policy, among other matters.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar contested Gandhi’s claim on Twitter. “In 1963, Pakistan illegally handed over the Shaksgam valley to China,” Jaishankar said. “China built the Karakoram highway through PoK in the 1970s.”
The minister added that Pakistan and China had a close nuclear collaboration from the 1970s and that in 2013, the China-Pakistan Economic corridor took off. “So, ask yourself: were China and Pakistan distant then?” said Jaishankar.