Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Friday expressed his displeasure at the tumultuous scenes witnessed at the Rajya Sabha during the passage of the farming bills and said the subsequent chain of events that culminated to the Opposition boycotting both Houses, was unfortunate, The Indian Express reported. Nonetheless, he said the curtailed Monsoon Session recorded a “historic productivity”.
“The dignity of the House and its chair was an important aspect of the parliamentary system,” Birla said. “All members have a duty to respect it.” Birla was addressing the media, after the conclusion of the Monsoon Session that was cut short after several parliamentarians tested positive for the coronavirus.
Birla added that although the tradition of Parliamentary proceedings speaks against the act of discussing the happenings of the other House, it would suffice to say that the events had been rather unfortunate. “Efforts should be made to strengthen democratic institutions further,” the Lok Sabha speaker said.
Biral said the Opposition had boycotted the last day of Lok Sabha because of “some political compulsions”, adding that the leaders had conveyed they did not have any problem with him personally.
“In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition has largely extended cooperation to the Chair in the peaceful conduct of the House, and the boycott was, as I understand it, under an act of political compulsion,” he said, according to The Hindu. He added that he had invited the Opposition leaders for a cup of a tea and requested them to attend the valedictory proceedings of the House on Wednesday.
The Speaker said that despite the adverse circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lok Sabha recorded a historic productivity of 167%. “On average, 370 MPs attended the House in a day,” he added. “This is even better than in a session during normal times.”
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The unprecedented session
Three controversial Bills on agriculture reforms are set to become law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha on September 20 in the middle of utter pandemonium. The three bills are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The last one was also approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
During the debate in Rajya Sabha, some opposition MPs had urged the deputy chairman Harivansh Singh to send the controversial agriculture bills to a select committee for further scrutiny before making them laws. However, instead of following the regular procedure of division of votes after such a resolution by any MP, Singh took up the bills by voice vote, read it clause by clause, and passed them.
In the middle, the audio telecast of the live proceedings was briefly muted. After opposition leaders were prevented from speaking in Parliament, the politicians climbed atop tables, snatched the rule book, flung documents in the air and tried to take away the deputy chairman’s microphone to lodge their protest. Eight MPs were suspended from the House for their “unruly behaviour”.
The logjam intensified and the eight opposition MPs of the Rajya Sabha sat on a dharna and spent the night by the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the lawns of parliament. Congress MP and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had also met President Ram Nath Kovind and requested him to not give his assent to the three farm bills passed in Parliament.
The suspended MPs – Derek O’ Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party, Sayed Nasir, Rajiv Satav and Ripun Bora of Congress, and Elaram Karine and Kk Ragesh from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – continued protests and demanded that their suspension from the Upper House be immediately revoked.
But when Singh, who had ordered their suspension, refused to relent, the entire opposition decided to boycott the remaining two days of the Monsoon Session and began protesting in the Parliament premises.
The House, however, decided to go on with business as usual. Rajya Sabha passed 15 bills over the last two days, clocking a productivity rate of over 100% despite this being the shortest Monsoon Session. Eight bills were passed on Wednesday in less than four hours and seven bills were passed on Tuesday in three-and-a-half hours.
The Bills passed include one that removes cereals, pulses and onion from the essential commodities list and an ordinance to cut MPs’ salaries by 30% to save funds to control the pandemic.