Heated debate on farm bills in Rajya Sabha; oppn members tear papers, heckle presiding officer

Heated debate on farm bills in Rajya Sabha; oppn members tear papers, heckle presiding officer

NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed two key farm bills amid a bedlam as opposition members charged towards the podium of the presiding officer, flung the rule book at him, tore official papers and heckled him over their demand for a division of vote.

Trouble started when the sitting of the House was extended beyond the scheduled time to allow passage of the bills. Opposition members, who felt such a move should be resorted to only by consensus, rushed into the Well, shouting slogans against the government and accusing it of being anti-farmer.

This forced agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar to cut short his reply and deputy chairman Harivansh took up the approval of the bills.

Four opposition sponsored motions to send the two bills to a House panel for greater scrutiny were negated by voice vote, but the Congress, TMC, CPM and DMK members sought a division of vote on the issue.

As Harivansh over-ruled them saying division of votes can take place only when members are on their seat, TMC leader Derek O’Brien charged towards the podium, thrusting the rule book into the face of the Deputy Chairman.

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House marshals thwarted the move as also blocking a book that was flung towards Harivansh. An attempt was also made to pulls microphones away from the chair but the marshals physically stopped that from happening.

DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, who along with O’Brien, K C Venugopal of Congress and K K Ragesh of CPM had moved resolutions for sending the bills to the select committee, tore papers and flung them into the air.

Harivansh, who asked members to go back to their places and not come into the Well due to the Covid-19 protocol requiring physical separation, first muted the audio of the live proceedings but with the ruckus continuing, he adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes.

When the House reassembled, opposition parties chanted slogans but this did not prevent Harivansh from putting the bill to voice vote.

As the first bill got voice approval of the House and motions for sending it to a select committee were rejected, at least two members tried to climb on the table of Rajya Sabha officers but were pulled down.

Both the bills were passed by voice vote and amendments moved by the opposition parties rejected

However, the Congress and other opposition party members sat in protest inside Rajya Sabha even after the House was adjourned for the day after the passage of the two farm bills.

The House sitting ends at 1pm and Rajya Sabha chamber has to be sanitised by 3pm when Lok Sabha sits for a session. Both the chambers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are being used for each House to allow members to follow physical distancing norms.

As a result, Lok Sabha had to be adjourned till 4pm as Congress members demanded that the House proceedings should not take place till Rajya Sabha galleries are cleared of the agitating members of the Upper House.

Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu convened a high-level meeting at his residence and is likely to take action against those who created ruckus in the Upper House.

Delhi: A high-level meeting underway at residence of Rajya Sabha Chairman, Venkaiah Naidu, over the ruckus created… https://t.co/OfoRpOwd4b

— ANI (@ANI) 1600599438000

Sources told news agency ANI that Rajya Sabha chairman is very upset with the incident and is likely to take action against those who raised slogans against the chair and tore papers.

Shortly after the passage of the bills, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal urged President Ram Nath Kovind not to give his assent to the legislations and return them to Parliament for reconsideration.

Badal’s party had earlier pulled out Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Union Cabinet in protest against the bills.

BJP hails passage of farm bills in Parliament

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Parliament’s nod to the two bills on Sunday, describing the passage as a “watershed moment” in the history of Indian agriculture.

He asserted that they will ensure a complete transformation of the farm sector and empower crores of farmers.

In a series of tweets, PM Modi said these proposed laws will liberate farmers from numerous adversities as he noted that peasants were for decades bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen.

A watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture! Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage… https://t.co/CdLW6Itzmc

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600595449000

For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parli… https://t.co/GfF1nhaFeZ

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600595492000

He again assured farmers that the existing government support system for them will continue.

Farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana have been protesting against these bills, with their leaders alleging that the legislations will dismantle the existing system and leave them to the mercy of corporate interests.

Our agriculture sector is in desperate need of latest technology that assists the industrious farmers. Now, with th… https://t.co/VGK1o0pPQb

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600595705000

BJP president J P Nadda said the legislations will give farmers freedom in selling their produce and rid them of middlemen.

He also hit out at the opposition parties over the ruckus in the Rajya Sabha after the Chair proceeded to take up the bills for passage as he termed the behaviour “highly irresponsible” and an attack on democracy, and hoped that the House chairman will take note of that.

Opposition members also violated Covid-19 protocols by storming the Well of the House, he told reporters.

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