Lok Sabha witnessed first adjournment in the Monsoon Session over disruption when Treasury and Opposition members clashed over PM-CARES fund.
On the other hand Rajya Sabha passed four Bills in less than four hours. The Upper House too was adjourned for 30 minutes to mourn the death of Karnataka MP Ashok Gasti.
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Here are the latest updates:
6.20 pm | Lok Sabha
BJP Member Jayant Sinha continues the discussion on the supplementary demands for grants, 2020-21. This is a manifesto for “atmanirbharta”, he says.
“We are seeking supplementary demand for Rs.2.35 lakh crore, in which huge amounts have been allocated for meeting expenses related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The impact of expenses incurred is that right now we are conducting 10 lakh tests per day for Covid-19, work on vaccine candidates are under way, Covid care centres have been set up, ventilators are being manufactured. In 70 days, we have provided 50,000 ventilators. We should praise and thank the frontline workers,” he says.
“Funds are also being allocated for the benefit of MSMEs, thereby protecting employment. For those with distressed assets, Rs.250 crore has been allocated.
“For MNREGA, an extra Rs.40,000 crore has been given, apart from the Rs.60,000 crore. While 6 crore people were earlier working under MNREGA, it is now 2 crore, as the economy is improving,” he adds.
“We have been able to stabilise the economy, RBI’s role cannot be ignored. The government, in coordination with the RBI, has maintained the credit market well. In India, the rupee has appreciated against the dollar. The world.has confidence in our leadership. Other indicators of economy have shown growth. We know that oil prices in world market are the lowest, so funds have been allocated for creating more oil reserves,” Mr. Sinha says.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury says both the supplementary demands are deemed to have been moved. “I have not found anything to suggest that any new service has been contemplated in the demands for grants.
“There has been a complete breach of trust by the Centre when it comes to revenue sharing with the States. This is completely unacceptable. States are being told to relinquish their rights to collect taxes,” he adds.
6 pm | Lok Sabha
Not my intention to hurt sentiments: Anurag Thakur
The House resumes. Speaker Om Birla is in the Chair.
He says in the past four days, the House functioned well with all the members following the protocols properly. He urges the Members to maintain the dignity of the House and to not indulge in levelling baseless allegations.
“It is my responsibility to protect all the members, I would request Mr. Anurag Thakur to say a few words on the objections raised by the other members,” he says.
Mr. Thakur express regret over his comments.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh praises the Speaker for having resolved the differences. He expresses hope that the House will function smoothly.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury says all the members have immense respect for the Speaker. “We all should keep in mind that we have come together to attend the proceedings in the adverse circumstances, we are here to dispense our responsibilities,” he says.
“None of the members have any complaint against you, we have confidence that you as a guardian will protect all the members. We all will run the House smoothly and protect its dignity, it is the responsibility of all Members,” says Mr. Chowdhary.
5.00 pm | Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha resumes and is immediately adjourned as Opposition leaders continue to demand an apology from Mr. Thakur.
The House proceedings resume at 5.30 p.m. Sloganeering continues. The Chair asks the protesting members to cooperate. The House is adjourned again till 6 p.m.
4.20 pm | Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha resumes. Rama Devi is in the Chair.
Amid slogan-shouting by Opposition members, demanding an apology from Mr. Thakur, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeks discussion and voting on the supplementary demands for grants 2020-21 and voting on the demands for excess grants for 2016-17.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury says the House is not in order, and that the MoS should tender an apology.
The House is adjourned till 5 p.m.
3.40 pm | Lok Sabha
The Speaker intervenes. He warns the members not to stand up and move around. “Safety is important. The country is watching us,” he says.
Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) to the Speaker: “You are not saying anything against BJP members. You can even suspend us, but you cannot protect them.”
“I have warned the minister too,” Speaker says.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury points out the opposition MPs were objecting only legal issues. “Nirmala Sitharaman was speaking respectfully,” he says and targets Anurag Thakur for politicising the issue. Treasury Benches oppose him.
Gaurav Gogoi demands an apology from Anurag Thakur.
House adjourned for 30 minutes.
3.30 pm | Lok Sabha
Heated exchanges between Opposition and Treasury benches over PM-CARES
MoS Finance, Anurag Thakur, responds to opposition queries on PM-CARES. He rubbishes the Opposition charges, saying they are against every move the government takes. “Your intentions are wrong,” he says. Opposition leaders raise objection.
He points out courts have disposed of all cases against PM-CARES. The courts have termed it valid as per Constitution. In April they approached the Court and were indulging in politics when the country was facing Covid crisis. Delhi High Court rejected their plea for RTI application to the fund. Contributions to the fund are not going to the government.
Speaker asks him to cut short his speech. You can raise it during the debate, he says.
Mr. Thakur trains his guns on PMNRF. He claims the trust was not even registered. He claims “the fund was only for the Gandhi family.”
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury objects naming the Gandhis. PM-CARES has taken donations from Chinese firms. This has to be probed, he says. Mr. Thakur accuses the Gandhis of mismanagement of funds.
Heated exchanges between Opposition and Treasury benches.
3.30 pm | Lok Sabha
‘Force majeure clause not for GST’
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman responds. She says she wants to allay the fears of opposition that the government is not on a backfoot in compensations. We are not taking away the States rights on GST revenue sharing by enforcing force majeure clause.
The PM has also been a Chief Minister and he knows how important is for the States to get money, we are not taking away the rights of any States, the money due to them will be given, she asserts.
It is within the limits of central government’s terrain to govern tax payments, tax filing, and tax returns, she says.
Vivaad ke Vishwaas is a dispute resolution scheme and not an amnesty scheme, she clarifies.
3.15 pm | Lok Sabha
Row over PM-CARES
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduces The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.
Shashi Tharoor, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and A.M. Arif oppose the Bill.
The Bill, replacing an ordinance, extends the deadline for paying taxes and duties in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bill also seeks to provide the same tax treatment to PM CARES Fund as available to Prime Minister National Relief Fund. Opposition MPs oppose this clause in the Bill. They question the need for a new fund, and why is it not being audited by CAG, if it is a public fund.
TMC Member Sougata Roy objects to introduction of the Bill, particularly the provision related to PM Cares Fund. The PM already has a national relief fund and PM relief fund for cancer fund, what is the need for new fund, there will be no audit by CAG of this fund. This fund be abolished and all the funds gathered be transferred to the PM national relief fund, he says.
Congress member Manish Tewari also opposes the Bill saying it does not propose procedural changes, but it has the effect of substantially amending eight different laws. He also objects to the provision pertaining to PM Cares Fund, since its name is attached to the institution of PM, it should rather be brought in through legislation.
3.00 pm | Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha assembles. Speaker Om Birla says he is not allowing any adjournment motions but assures members that the issues can be raised during Zero Hour.
Various papers are being laid on the table.
Speaker notes the absence of concerned ministers at the time of session. He asks the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to plan the day in advance, and modify the list of business accordingly, if the minister coudn’t be in the House for some reason.
Mandatory daily antigen test for reporters, Parliament staff
Amid fresh cases of coronavirus among MPs, reporters and parliamentary staff entering the Parliament complex will have to undergo mandatory antigen test on a daily basis, according to a new protocol put in place.
Members of both Houses are undergoing RT-PCR test on regular intervals on a voluntary basis, said a senior Parliament official.
A member of Parliament can undergo RT-PCR test as many times he or she likes.
Journalists covering the Monsoon session from press galleries of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha also have the option to undergo the RT-PCR test which is valid for 72 hours.
Since the report of the much reliable RT-PCR takes time, antigen test has been made mandatory on a daily basis.
Government officials accompanying their respective ministers during bill discussions also have to show a negative report of RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours of their visit to the complex. – PTI
1.15 pm | Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha passes Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020 by voice vote.
Rajya Sabha adjourned till 9 a.m. of September 19.
1.05 pm | Rajya Sabha
MoS Home Affairs G. Kisan Reddy replies to the members’ comments:
He responds to the criticism that the House spent two hours addressing these issues, and says that the idea of this Bill is not just to save money, it is also a matter of principle.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi too addresses DMK MP’s criticism saying the concept is charity begins at home. We have to be role models for our country, he says. He also says that he wants to clarify that the saving from the Bills is not Rs. 6 crore, it is at least Rs. 53.83 crore.
Heated words exchanged over politics of PMCARES fund.
1 pm | Rajya Sabha
Congress MP and Leader of Oppositio Gulam Nabi Azad says that MPLAD funds are vital, and asked that its suspension be modified from two years to one year and 100% to 50% cut.
“What do we construct from these funds? We don’t construct palaces. It is used to construct small houses, kachcha roads, and other small but necessary amenities,” he says.
12.50 pm | Rajya Sabha
BSP MP from Uttar Pradesh Veer Singh asks that the details of the migrants who were affected by the lockdown be made public and the funds for their assistance be increased.
MP from J&K Nazir Ahmad Laway asks that the MPLAD funds be restored. He says that it is imperative to have MPLAD as there are grassroot level issues that can be best addressed by the representatives.
Nominated BJP MP Rakesh Sinha calls the Opposition ‘Frankenstein’s monster’, says they oppose every measure regardless of its relevance.
12.45 pm | Rajya Sabha
YSRCP MP from Andhra Pradesh V. Vijayasai Reddy too supports the Bills, and asks that the MPLAD funds be restored.
TDP MP from Andhra Pradesh asks for a Central government probe into the spending of COVID-19 funds by the State government, alleging that there are discrepencies and suspicions of corruption.
AAP MP from Delhi N. D. Gupta says that he supports the Bills, but opines that it sends a message to the citizens that the MPs’ salary had to be forcibly cut to get them to contribute. He says that the contibutions could have been made voluntary, and that it would have saved the House a considerable amount of time.
12.30 pm | Rajya Sabha
MPs object to the suspension of MPLAD funds
SP MP from Uttar Pradesh Vishambhar Prasad Nisha says that he supports the salary cut, but objected to the suspension of MPLAD funds. This money does not go into our pockets, but is used to help the people in our constituencies, he says. Without that, our hands are tied, he adds.
He asks that the government not use this pandemic to sneak in such measures.
DMK MP P. Wilson from Tamil Nadu argues that the savings made from passing this bill is less than the the amount spent in the process of passing it in the Parliament Houses. “The government is spending Rs. 6 crores to save Rs. 4 crore,” he says.
He too calls for the MPLAD fund suspension be lifted. He adds that it is astonishing that the government thought it appropriate to suspend the MPLAD fund while the multi-crore Central Vista project is still on.
12.20 pm | Rajya Sabha
BJP MP from Punjab Shwait Malik asks the Congress to not politicise COVID-19 efforts. He says that the PMCARES funds are being used wisely, and for coronavirus response.
AITC MP from West Bengal Dinesh Trivedi says that he fully supports the wage cuts, but asks the ruling party to include the Opposition in the decision making process.
12.10 pm | Rajya Sabha
Suspend Central Vista project until pandemic is over, says Congress MP
Congress MP from Maharashtra Rajeev Satav says that he fully supports the Bill and is willing to work for Re.1 if that would aid COVID-19 response.
However, he says that the attempt to suspend MPLAD is wrong, and criticises the government’s handling of the economy. He says that there is no accountability for PMCARES, and many other programs. He calls for MPLAD to be reinstated because it benefits the people on the ground.
He also asks that the Central Vista project be suspended until the COVID-19 fight is done with.
11.50 am | Rajya Sabha
The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 passed by voice vote.
Next in consideration: Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Minister Kishen Reddy moves the motion for discussion on the Bill, on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah. BJP’s Bhupendar Yadav suggests that this Bill’s discussion be combined with that of Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The House agrees and Mr. Reddy moves the motion.
The Bills call for a 30% reduction in salaries of MPs and 30% reduction in the sumptuary allowance of Ministers to aid in COVID-19 response.
11.45 am | Rajya Sabha
Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan thanks the members for their suggestions and concerns. Addressing the concerns regarding the ordinance route, Dr. Vardhan says there is nothing abnormal about this choice as many previous governments have used this option as well.
The Minister objects to the use of the term “quackery” in reference to certain ancient Indian medical system. He says that yoga and naturopathy need a separate national medical commission, and adds that the National Medical Commission for modern medicine will be functional soon.
11.30 am | Rajya Sabha
BJP MP Dr. Vikas Mahatme from Maharashtra begins by congratulating Ms. Vandana Chavan for her role as acting Chair. He suggests that the name of the position should be changed from Chairman to Chairperson to make it gender neutral.
He says the ordinance was necessary to ensure the registration of the council was done in a proper manner.
11.20 am | Rajya Sabha
AAP MP from Delhi Sanjay Singh says that the amount set aside for homoeopathy in the AYUSH ministry budget is very small.
Congress MP from Karnataka L. Hanumanthaiah too terms the government as an “ordinance government”. He names the different ordinances that were brought in by the government previously to support his statement. “What is the necessity of so many ordinances even when the Parliament is running?” he asks.
He says that the current amendments proposed are stop-gap measures.
11.05 am | Rajya Sabha
Almost every member raises the point that it is inappropriate to choose the ordinance route repeatedly.
RJD MP Prof. Manoj Kumar from Bihar too echoes this sentiment. This not a government, this is an ordinance factory, he says.
The MP asks that the Bill be made balanced. He says though the Prime Minister and ruling party keeps using the phrase cooperative federalism, but he has not seen any inkling of that so far. He asks the Health Minister to rectify that. He adds that there are many fake medicines being sold in markets in the name of Indian medicine, and that he requests the government to find a way to address that as well.
10.55 am | Rajya Sabha
SP MP from Ram Gopal Yadav from Uttar Pradesh says that the current amendments have limited scope, and are just to extend the tenure of the Board of Governors. He says there are many diseases for which there is no cure in allopathy, but there is a cure in ayurveda. He supports the Bill.
DMK MP from Tamil Nadu Tiruchi Siva terms the Bill as another attempt by the government to dilute the principle of federalism. He points out that there is no representation of elected members of State Medical Councils in the advisory council.
10.50 am | Rajya Sabha
Ordinance route to be used only in case of emergency, says Prasanna Acharya
“Homoeopathy is an old Indian system of medicine and it is accessible to the poor. So we need to make it robust,” says BJP MP Prasanna Acharya from Odisha.
“My contention isthat the ordinance should be brought in only during an extraordinary situation. We have a Parliament, why do we need an ordinance,” he asks. He says he and his party supports the Bill, but there is not clear demarcation of powers and functions, and that needs to be addressed.
10.40 am | Rajya Sabha
The members are discussing both Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 together.
NCP MP Vandan Chavan is in the Chair.
AITC MP from West Bengal Dr. Santanu Sen asks what can be expected from a government that says that drinking cow urine can cure disease. He accuses the government of promoting quackery and private colleges.
10.20 am | Rajya Sabha
BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi speaks on the Bill. He says that one of the challenges before the government was to decide how to uphold the quality of teaching and practising homoeopathy. He says that a national eligibility test has been set up for this.
“Some say that there is no scientific proof for homoeopathic medicines effectiveness. Homoeopathy is a strain of medicine that focusses not just on the disease but also the patient. The science behind this is not visible to us,” he says.
“For instance, two ways of combating COVID-19 are by vaccine and by boosting immunity. Methods to boost immunity are available only in Indian medicine, and not by Western medicine,” he says. It is regrettable that we did not explore Indian medicine in depth earlier, says Dr. Trivedi. He adds that the only way to become a world leader is by being a pioneer, and not a follower. He cites the time and money China has poured into exploration of their traditional medicine as an example.
10.10 am | Rajya Sabha
Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan moves the motion to take up Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in June 2019.
MP K.K. Ragesh registers his protest against the “ordinance raj”.
INC MP Ripun Bora said that the autonomy of the Homeopathy Council, and briefly describes the history of the Council. He said the government has a history of taking away autonomy (cites J&K as an example) of institutes and organisations.
9.55 am | Rajya Sabha
DMK MP from Tamil Nadu Tiruchi Siva says that there is unequal representation of States in Central government jobs. He asks that 90% representation be given for residents of the States.
Other points raised include digitisation of land rights, concern on privatisation of ordinance factories, rights of pensioners, the uneven implementation of Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan.
9.45 am | Rajya Sabha
BJD MP from Odisha Muzibulla Khan raises the issue of revisiting census figures in Odisha as he suspects that figures related to the minority population is inaccurate.
AIAMK MP from Tamil Nadu M. Thambidurai requests the Centre to release the pending Custom Milled Rice subsidy amount of over 5,445 crore to the State. He details the break-up of the amount, and says that the State government is a farmer-friendly government.
Congress MP from Punjab Shamsher Singh Dullo raises the issue of illicit liquor in the State and requests the Centre to intervene and investigate the illicit liquor mafia. He requests that compensation be provided for people affected by this.
9.35 am | Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha resumes.
Papers laid on the table. Chairman reminds the House of safety guidelines. He asks the members to avoid meeting him in his chamber in person, and instead to write to him their requests. Slips are not allowed in the the examination halls, but they are allowed here, says Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, prompting laughter.
Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe tests COVID positive
BJP MP from Maharashtra Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He shared the news on Twitter.
The MP said that he had tested negative on September 11, but after he suffered from mild fever and headache, he got himself examined and retested. He said that he is being treated for the virus and appealed those who interacted with him to consult a doctor.
9 am | Rajya Sabha
The Upper House has been adjourned till 9.30 a.m following obituary reference to Karnataka MP Ashok Gasti.
Gasti, who was BJP Rajya Sabha member from Raichur, succumbed to COVID-19 at a private hospital in Bengaluru on Thursday night. He was critically ill with multi-organ failure and was on life support system in the intensive care unit.
Covering Parliament during a pandemic
Sobhana K. Nair, who is covering the proceedings from the Parliament House, writes:
What strikes you the most when you enter Parliament now is emptiness. There are no milling crowds, no chatter, and no reporters tailing parliamentarians.
Strict rules have been put in place to ensure safety. To make sure that there are no big crowds, the number of reporters has been severely limited by both Houses of Parliament. The list of news organisations that are allowed inside the Parliament premises has been trimmed. Many regional and smaller organisations are barred. On any given day, there are not more than 35 reporters allowed inside the premises. The Rajya Sabha has come up with a roster allocating different dates to each organisation. On the days one doesn’t figure in the list, one has no choice but to watch the live transmission from miles away. No photographers, except from the news agency PTI, have been provided access. No television cameras are allowed except Doordarshan, ANI, Rajya Sabha TV, and Lok Sabha TV. And these camerapersons too are allowed only up to a certain point.
Bills for Consideration and Passing
- Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020
Bill for Introduction
- Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020
Bills for consideration and passing
- Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020
- Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020