LS functions briefly, takes up some issues; Opposition protest continues

The Lok Sabha functioned briefly on Thursday, even as the Opposition continued their protests over inflation, among other economic issues, and Congress MPs took up ED’s summons to party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Barring a 15-minute adjournment, the House took up Question Hour, and a few MPs from BJP, YSRCP and Shiv Sena raised public issues during the Zero Hour, even though the Opposition was not present.

During Zero Hour, Akali Dal MP and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur tore into the government over the decision to set up a committee on MSP for farmers without focus on legal guarantee to it, and for purportedly filling up the panel with officials and farm leaders who had backed the contentious farm laws that were withdrawn following a long agitation by farmers.

She alleged that the government has changed the committee’s aim and intentions, which will spark further discontent among farmers.

Earlier in the day, when the House met at 11 am, members of DMK, TRS and Left parties held up placards on inflation, especially critical of high fuel prices, while Congress MPs carried placards with Sonia Gandhi’s picture and “Satyameva Jayate”written on them.

With Opposition MPs refusing to budge, despite Speaker Om Birla asking them to return to their seats, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the government is ready to discuss price-rise. “As soon as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is back at work (she is infected with Covid-19), the Speaker can decide the time for the debate,” he said.

Slamming the Congress, Joshi said, “Now they have brought up the issue of someone being questioned by ED. Do they not think that law is equal for everyone?”

Infuriated, Congress MPs intensified their slogan-shouting.

Birla adjourned proceedings for 15 minutes, and when the House resumed at 11.30 am, Congress MPs had left to protest outside. Soon DMK, NCP and Left MPs also left.

Rajendra Agrawal, who was in the Chair, took up Zero Hour and continued the proceedings until 1.10 pm.

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Speaking on farm MSP, SAD’s Kaur said while withdrawing the farm laws the Centre had assured that a committee would look into legalising MSP, one of the key demands of the protesting farmers. However, she said, “the committee formed on July 12 has removed this clause altogether and changed it [plan and focus of the panel] to ‘make MSP more effective and transparent’.”

Kaur said the former Agricultural Secretary, who was architect of the now-withdrawn “black laws”, has been made the committee’s chairman and that a NITI Aayog Member (Agriculture), who had resolutely defended the scrapped laws, is its member. She alleged that all farmers’ representatives in the committee “vociferously” backed the contentious farm laws.

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