Opposition parties on Sunday submitted a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh for allegedly not safe-guarding democracy by denying requests for a division of votes during the passage of two farm bills.
The Rajya Sabha earlier in the day passed the Farmers’ and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The bills were passed by voice vote amid uproar by Opposition.
The contentious bills have been criticised by the Opposition as being “anti-farmer”. While the Shiv Sena demanded a special session to discuss the bills, the Congress called it a “death warrant” for the farmers. Most Opposition parties questioned the government’s rush to pass the bills.
The bills are being fiercely opposed by farmers across the country as well. They fear that the bills will eliminate the minimum support price and bring about corporate control. There are three bills in total. All of them sailed through the Lok Sabha last week.
Here are the top updates from Parliament today:
8.50 pm: Congress leader KC Venugopal adds that it is unfortunate that Union minister Rajnath Singh and five other ministers held a press conference justifying Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh’s actions. “They should’ve at least condemned the practice by deputy chairman,” Venugopal says. “But they are justifying the Deputy Chairman, and the procedure. It means today’s entire episode was a conspiracy, built by BJP leadership. They want to suppress the voice of farmers in the House.”
8.40 pm: Congress leader KC Venugopal asks why there was a rush to pass these bills. “We don’t understand, why this hurry? They are not listening to the voice of the farmers. They are not listening to political parties. They are not listening to the voice of the Parliament, especially the Opposition,” he says.
8.35 pm: Congress calls it a “black day” for parliamentary democracy in India. “The way in which anti-farmer law has been taken up in Rajya Sabha today is unacceptable and condemnable,” Congress leader KC Venugopal says, according to ANI. “Farmers associations and farmers organisations are on streets, they are fighting for their course.”
7.47 pm: On being asked about the Opposition parties’ no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, Union minister Rajnath Singh says the notice has been given to Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
“A decision will be taken by him [Naidu],” Rajnath Singh says. “I don’t want to say anything politically. This is the prerogative of the Chairman.”
7.45 pm: “I’m also a farmer, never believe government will hurt farmers,” Rajnath Singh adds.
7.43 pm: “As far as I know, this has never happened in the history of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha,” Rajnath Singh adds. “This happening in Rajya Sabha is an even bigger matter. Attempts are being made to mislead the farmers on the basis of rumours. What happened is against the decorum of House.”
7.40 pm: “What happened in Rajya Sabha today was saddening, unfortunate and shameful,” Rajnath Singh says. “It is the responsibility of the ruling side to enable discussions in the House but it is also the duty of the Opposition to maintain decorum.”
7.37 pm: Rajnath Singh claims the Opposition is spreading misinformation. He adds that the scenes witnessed in the Rajya Sabha earlier in the day was “unprecedented”. The Opposition’s behaviour with Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh was condemnable, he adds.
7.35 pm: Defence minister Rajnath Singh and other Union ministers, including Prakash Javadekar, Prahlad Joshi, Piyush Goyal, Thawarchand Gehlot and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, address the media about the ruckus in Rajya Sabha earlier in the day.
6.30 pm: Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant says there were more people on the streets of Mumbai after the coronavirus lockdown was announced than those who would have come out after the Partition of India. “But the government didn’t start trains. People were mowed down by trains on railway tracks. Somewhere we made mistakes,” he says, according to ANI.
6 pm: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticises the passage of the two bills.
5.40 pm: Meanwhile, BJP MPs protest in Parliament over the law and order situation in West Bengal.
5 pm: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says India has the worst of both worlds. “We have neither managed to limit the spread of the virus nor have we managed to keep the economy afloat,” Tharoor says, according to ANI. “GDP for the first time in 41 years will actually shrink.”
4.55 pm: The Lok Sabha is currently discussing the coronavirus pandemic.
4.44 pm: Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs Nityanand Rai tells the Lok Sabha that 18,855 people were granted Indian citizenship between 2015 and 2019.
4.40 pm: Meanwhile, proceedings in the Lok Sabha are underway.
4.35 pm: A “high-level meeting” is currently underway at Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu’s residence in connection with the ruckus in Rajya Sabha, ANI reports. Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, who was the chair during the uproar, and Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Pralhad Joshi are also reportedly present.
4.10 pm: YSR Congress Party MPs protest inside the Parliament complex, demanding an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Amaravati land scam.
4 pm: “This day will go down in history as ‘black day’,” says Congress MP Ahmed Patel. “The way these bills have been passed goes against democratic processes and amounts to killing democracy. Twelve Opposition parties have moved a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha deputy chairman.”
3.49 pm: Congress MP Ahmed Patel says Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, who should “safeguard democratic traditions” is instead harming them, ANI reports.
3.47 pm: Opposition parties have submitted a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, ANI reports.
3.45 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi adds that the system of MSP will remain. “Government procurement will continue,” Modi says. “We are here to serve our farmers. We will do everything possible to support them and ensure a better life for their coming generations.”
3.42 pm: “Our agriculture sector is in desperate need of latest technology that assists the industrious farmers,” the prime minister adds. “Now, with the passage of the bills, our farmers will have easier access to futuristic technology that will boost production and yield better results. This is a welcome step.”
3.40 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the passage of the bills is “a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture”.
“Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage of key bills in Parliament, which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as well as empower crores of farmers,” Modi says. “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities. These bills will add impetus to the efforts to double income of farmers and ensure greater prosperity for them.”
3.12 pm: Opposition parties sat in protest inside the Rajya Sabha even after the House was adjourned for the day, PTI reports.
The Upper House session ends at 1 pm every day, and it is sanitised by 3 pm, when the Lok Sabha session begins. Both chambers are currently being used for each House due to physical distancing norms amid the coronavirus crisis.
3.08 pm: Meanwhile, farmer in Haryana are protesting against the new law.
3.05 pm: Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi claims the Opposition murdered democracy by creating a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha. “We condemn this. This is an insult to people’s mandate. Congress & TMC think they are the ‘Badshahs’. The ruling party and the government will not budge to this,” he says, according to ANI.
3 pm: BJP President JP Nadda claims Opposition parties are anti-farmers. “Instead of being part of the process, they tried to obstruct the liberation of farmers,” Nadda says, according to ANI. “BJP condemns their act. The irresponsible act of opposition is unfortunate. They violated the protocols, Chairman will take note of it and take action. The democratic system should function smoothly, we’ll request Chairman to take steps for the same.”
2.50 pm: BJP leader and Union Minister Rajnath Singh praises the passage of the two bills. “With the passing of two landmark agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha today, India has cemented the strong foundation for ‘Atmanirbhar Agriculture’,” he says.
2.40 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien says it’s a sad day for parliamentary democracy and that the Chair denied the opposition’s demand for a division of votes.
“Members asked for a vote, we were denied it. It is unprecedented. It’s a historic day from the worst sense of the word,” he says. “Bottom line: Opposition wanted a vote on the farmers bill, and BJP did not want a vote because they did not have the numbers.”
He says that he did not tear up a rule book and calls such claims propaganda. He adds that the Rajya Sabha TV was censored and that MPs had to shoot videos of some of the proceedings.
In another video, he adds: “They cheated. They broke every rule in Parliament. It was a historic day. In the worst sense of the word. They cut RSTV feed so the country couldn’t see. They censored RSTV.”
1.59 pm: The Upper House will convene again at 9 am on Monday.
1.47 pm: Rajya Sabha passes the Farmers’ and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, amid protest by Opposition MPs. The bills are passed by voice vote.
1.44 pm: Rajya Sabha adjourns after uproar in the House over agriculture bills.
1.25 pm: Rajya Sabha TV mutes the audio while Opposition parties protest and shout slogans against the farm bills, NDTV reports.
1.24 pm: TMC legislator Derek O’Brien enters the well and shows the House rule book to Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh during discussion on agriculture bills.
1.09 pm: Congress’ Ahmed Patel speaks in Rajya Sabha.
12.58 pm: Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) MP HD Deve Gowda says Narendra Modi should explain the rush to pass the bills amid the coronavirus pandemic. “He should explain what would farm bills do for farming community in short and long term and how it will help in achieving the government’s goal of doubling farmers’ income.”
12.22 pm: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut asks if SAD minister Harsimrat Kaur resigned on the basis of a rumour.
12.09 pm: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi says Narendra Modi is making farmers ‘slaves’ with the anti-agriculture black law.
11.56 am: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says a special session should be convened to discuss these bills.
11.35 am: Shiromani Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral says these Bills should be sent to a select committee so that all stakeholders can be heard. “Don’t think that the farmers of Punjab are weak,” he adds, according to ANI.
11.30 am: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal urges non-BJP parties to vote against the farm bills in Rajya Sabha.
11.18 am: Punjab Food & Civil Supplies Minister BB Ashu says he salutes the power of the farmers.
11.16 am: Uproar by Congress MPs in Rajya Sabha after YSRCP legislator VV Reddy calls it a party of middlemen “dalals [brokers]”. Congress MP Anand Sharma demands apology from him. The Speaker says nothing will go on record.
10.47 am: DMK legislator TKS Elangovan says the bills will make the farmers slaves.
10.44 am: Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav says it seems there is a compulsion that the ruling party doesn’t want to discuss the bills. “They are only rushing through these bills,” he adds. “You have not even consulted any farmer associations.”
10.27 am: In Rajya Sabha, TMC legislator Derek O’Brien says the Centre’s credibility is low. “PM said that Opposition is misleading the farmers,” says O’Brien. “You [Centre] said double farmer income by 2022. But, at current rates, the farmer income will not be doubled before 2028. Your credibility is low to make promises.”
10.20 am: Haryana minister Anil Vij says blocking roads during a pandemic is not correct. He blames the Opposition parties for misleading the farmers.
10.18 am: Workers of Punjab Youth Congress and farmers reach the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway in Zirakpur to take part in tractor rally.
10.05 am: BJP legislator Bhupender Yadav defends the three bills, saying the bills will give “power of digitalisation” to the farmers. “During the 60 years of the UPA rule, the income of farmers did not increase,” he says. “The bills introduced by the BJP government will bring the biggest reformers in the agriculture sector of the country. The agriculture sector contributes 12% to the country’s GDP and the BJP government has invested Rs 1 lakh crore in upbringing the sector. The farm bills will give power of digitalisation in the hands of the farmers.”
10.03 am: In Rajya Sabha, Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa says the party is “not ready to the sign on the death warrant” of farmers. “The present farm bills is against the Minimum Support Price given to farmers,” he adds. “I want to ask, what is the point of the bills at this time when at least 1 lakh Indians are dealing with coronavirus every day and China is breathing down India’s neck.”
10.02 am: Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala says although the Modi government will get all the three “anti-farmer black laws” passed in Rajya Sabha, but the real answer is no.
10.01 am: The Rajya Sabha is all set for a stormy session today over the three contentious farms bills. The Bharatiya Janata Party has reached out to its regional allies for support while the Congress and other Opposition parties are likely to unitedly oppose the bills in the Upper House.
9.57 am: Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator KK Ragesh, Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s T Siva have moved an amendment to send the two bills to Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha, reports ANI.
9.47 am: The Congress says it will oppose the bills. “It is very clear that this government’s motive is to destroy our farmers and help the corporate sector,” Congress MP KC Venugopal says, according to ANI. Our party has decided to oppose the agriculture bills. The government has to reconsider the bills, at least they should have sent it to select committee.”
9.46 am: “The two bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers,” he says, according to ANI. “The farmers will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere in the country. I want to assure the farmers that these bills are not related to Minimum Support Price.”
9.45 am: Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar moves two of the bills.