The Rajya Sabha on Friday suspended Congress MP Rajani Ashokrao Patil for the remainder of the current session for recording the proceedings of the House during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on Thursday. Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said that the Privileges Committee will enquire the matter and the MP will remain suspended until the Committee’s report will be available for consideration. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman replied in both Houses to the general discussion on Budget.
The Lok Sabha began on a stormy note after a heated exchange between Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and DMK members over the Centre’s action against medical colleges with inadequate facilities in Tamil Nadu.
Replying to a question on the setting up of colleges, Mandaviya accused the DMK MPs of indulging in politics and giving wrong information for saying that the AIIMS in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, was not ready.
The Opposition alleged that the Minister had threatened the leaders in his reply, which led to a verbal clash between the two sides. Speaker Om Birla assured the protesting Opposition that he would examine the statement made by the Minister, but the DMK and Congress members staged a walkout from the House in protest.
During Question Hour, the Minister also told the House that the NEET-PG examination will be conducted on March 5, as per schedule. The House then resumed the debate on the Union Budget 2023-24.
The Lower House did not adjourn for lunch and continued its Budget debate. AIUDF MP Ajmal Badruddin and other members raised concerns about the reduction in the allocation of funds to minorities.
Leader of Opposition and Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also opposed the Budget in its current form, saying that it neglected Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, had a dubious green policy, failed to address economically vulnerable people, and ignored the agriculture and health sectors. He also highlighted that the allocation to the Ministry of Minority Affairs was reduced by 38%.
Sitharaman, replied to the debate, covering 15 issues raised by various members. She stated four routes which have kept the economy on a path of growth: capex, enhancing productivity in the country, a focus on social security and inflation management. The Budget balanced India’s development imperative with fiscal prudence, she added.
The Finance Minister outlined the measures regarding excise duty on fertilisers but was interrupted by the Opposition asking about the rise in petrol prices. She responded and listed the States which have increased VAT on petrol/diesel and those which have not reduced the prices of these products.
The House then took up Zero Hour. The Lower House took up the Zero hour in the latter half of Friday’s session before adjourning for the day. Members raised various matters of urgent importance, from the cut in the budgetary allocation for minorities to the availability of accessible and inexpensive cancer care in India.
Minister of State for Defence, Ajay Bhatt, informed the House that the Army was in the process of posting 108 women officers in the rank of Colonel following a selection process. These officers are currently serving in the rank of Lt. Colonel.
The Upper House too was off to a stormy start as Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar refused to allow notices under Rule 267 seeking suspension of day’s business to discuss the Adani-Hindenburg issue.
Congress MP Syed Nasir Hussain from Karnataka asked the Chairman to clarify to the House if the issue has no merit or that the notices were submitted in an incorrect format and not in conformity with the rules. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also attended the proceedings of the Upper House today.
The House also witnessed protests and sloganeering early in the day, with members from both sides chanting and creating a ruckus. Leader of the House Piyush Goyal demanded an apology from Leader of Opposition (LoP) Mallikarjun Kharge on behalf of his MPs for “heckling” Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech on Thursday.
Chairman Dhankhar threatened to expel the protesting members, to which Goyal suggested that the leaders should have a separate discussion on how to carry on the proceedings of the House instead of resorting to an extreme step. Eventually, Opposition members walked out of the House after protesting in the Well, and the Question Hour resumed.
The House resumed after lunch with private members moving resolutions. Abdul Wahab, IUML, proposed the House urge the government to implement the recommendation of Sachar Committee Report and other reports that have discussed the educational and social backwardness of Muslims. Trinamool’s Jawhar Sircar and John Brittas of the CPI(M) also supported the resolution.
Brittas raised the issue of the hijab ban in Karnataka and said that Wahab should have highlighted the achievements of the Kerala government in uplifting minorities.
Responding to the discussion, BJP’s Rakesh Sinha defended the Budget and alleged that the Opposition leaders were widening religious divisions in the country with their comments on the plight of the Muslim community.
A brief discussion ensued about the recording of House proceedings during PM Modi’s address earlier on Thursday. The video has been shared on social media and it was against the rules, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said. Following discussions, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said that Congress MP Rajani Ashokrao Patil had recorded the video. He also said that the Privileges Committee will probe the issue and Patil will remain suspended for the current session until the Committee’s report would be available.
The House then resumed its general discussion on the Budget during which Opposition members expressed concerns about poverty, fiscal deficit and several such concerns. Sitharaman replied to the discussion and said that the gap in income levels can only be bridged by achieving development goals. The Budget has provisions for the middle class, employment generations, MSMEs, agriculture, rural population, health and green growth, she added.
Praising the Centre’s free ration scheme, PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, she said that it helped people from slipping into poverty.
“Both the UNDP and the IMF have spoken elaborately on how the free food, PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, has actually saved people from getting into poverty. India’s well-tailored programme, carried out over the past two years to support people and ensure they don’t run the risk of slipping into poverty, seems to have made an impact on the ground,” she said, quoting a report by the UNDP. With her reply, the House adjourned for the day to reconvene at 11 am on February 13, Monday.
Compiled by Sumeda, Priyali Prakash, Diksha Rajesh Munjal, Reuben Joe Joseph, Sruthi Darbhamulla and Srivatsan K C