Business-Standard, March 15, 2018
As the deadlock continued for the ninth consecutive day in Parliament, the government on Thursday managed to pass two bills in the Lok Sabha without discussion even as members from different parties were protesting over several issues including the PNB bank fraud and the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Like the passage of the Finance Bill, 2018 as well as the Appropriation Bill and demands for grants on Wednesday in the Lok Sabha, the two bills–The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017–were passed by voice vote in the lower house without any debate amidst din. Then the House was adjourned for the day.
Members from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), YSR Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) gathered near the Speaker’s podium, and kept protesting while the bills were passed.
When the House reassembled after the first adjournment, Minister of State for Labour, Santosh Kumar Gangwar moved The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was passed through voice vote in the din.
The government then moved The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which was also passed amid din through voice vote.
The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 amendment increases the upper ceiling of the gratuity from the present Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
Under The Specific Relief Amendment Bill, certain civil courts may be designated as Special Courts by the state government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of a High Court.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day soon after it met after multiple earlier adjournments, amid a ruckus by the Congress, TDP and AIADMK members who thronged near the Chair’s podium shouting slogans and displaying placards.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed noisy scenes as some of the Congress members trooped near the chair’s podium taking exception to the remarks by former Union Minister and TDP leader Y. S. Chowdary on the bifurcation of the United Andhra Pradesh.
He alleged that the formation of Andhra Pradesh in February, 2014 was hasty and unscientific. The Congress members strongly protested his remark and forced the chair to adjourn the House.
The situation was not different when it met at 2 p.m. and again at 3 p.m.
The upper house was scheduled to take up the Finance Bill and two Appropriation Bills for discussion and returning to the Lok Sabha. However, the Bills could not be taken up in the house as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the AIADMK members created pandemonium.
The TDP members have been agitating over the alleged “injustice” meted out to Andhra Pradesh by the Centre by not giving it special status, while the AIADMK has been demanding the constitution of a Cauvery Water Board to look into the Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien asked the agitating MPs to go back to their seats, saying if the House was not in order he would have to adjourn it and the responsibility for the house’s failure to pass the Finance and Appropriation Bills would lie with “those who are shouting slogans”.
“The responsibility for not taking up the Finance Bill is on you,” Kurien told the MPs who had gathered near his seat before adjourning the house for the day.
As the logjam continued, the government expressed concern and urged the parties to ensure smooth functioning of both the houses by participating in debates while the Congress blamed the “allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” for not allowing the house to function.
“The proceedings of the House must not be disrupted under any circumstances. People expect that their elected representatives would raise their issues and actively participate in parliamentary debates,” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters seeking cooperation from all political parties to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that parliament was expected to function but “the allies of the BJP” were not allowing it to.
The members from the Congress, the Trinamool and some other opposition parties have been protesting against the banking fraud committed by Nirav Modi and his associates, while the TDP and the YSR Congress have been demonstrating for special status to Andhra Pradesh.
The AIADMK has been demanding the setting up of a board for the management of the Cauvery river water.
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