Parliament logjam continues as government, opposition refuse to blink
Former PM Manmohan Singh speaks up on demonetisation, terms it a ‘monumental organizational failure’
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New Delhil: Deadlock continued in the Parliament for the ninth day on Thursday as both the government and opposition refused to blink over the demonetisation debate.
With PRS Legislative Research data showing productivity levels as low as 12% and 27% respectively in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, this could cast a shadow on the legislative business of the House, including three bills to roll out the goods and services tax (GST) bill to adhere to the deadline of 1 April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did attend the Rajya Sabha session on Thursday, even though he did not speak. Opposition parties disrupted proceedings after Modi left the House after lunch break. The opposition insisted Modi remain present all through the debate, or else they would not allow the House to function.
Opposition parties led by Congress have consistently demanded that the House will function only if the prime minister is present and ready to take part in the debate.
In the course of the debate, former prime minister Manmohan Singh described the government’s decision on demonetisation as a “monumental management failure” and a “case of organized loot and legalized plunder”.
Singh highlighted the problems that have arisen due to demonetisation.
“We do not know the final outcome; PM has asked us to wait for 50 days which is a short period but can be disastrous for the poor people, about 60-65 people have lost their life. What has been done can weaken people’s confidence in the currency and banking system. I want to know from the PM any country where people have deposited money in the banks but can’t withdraw it,” Singh said.
He said the government, particularly the prime minister, should come up with ways to ease the implementation process so as to not burden the common people.
“In my opinion, the scheme will hurt agriculture growth, small industry and people in informal sector of the economy, and the gross domestic product (GDP) can decline by 2 percentage points. It is not good that every day the banking system comes with new rules and regulations, and it reflects badly on the PM and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). I urge upon the PM to find practical ways to relieve the distress of the people who happen to be a great majority of our people. The cooperative banking system which serves people in rural areas is non-functional. The way the scheme has been implemented is a monumental organizational failure...it is a case of organized loot and legalised plunder of the country,” he added.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Rajya Sabha, “Whenever there is a session and a major decision has been taken before it, the PM gives a statement and takes Parliament into confidence. We are not against demonetisation; let’s make this clear. The decision that was taken without preparation has pained women, farmers, labourers.”
A potential deal-breaker came when Azad said, “If the prime minister has come here for question hour and will go back, then the opposition has decided there will be no question hour and the House will not function. But, if the PM takes part in the debate and will address the House, then our request is that the debate should start right now.”
In reply, Arun Jaitley, leader of Rajya Sabha and Union finance minister, said: “I do not agree with some things that Azadji has said but it is a good decision that the debate should start now. Doing away with question hour, let’s start debate on demonetisation and the prime minister will take part in it.”
However, when the opposition parties disrupted the debate when the House met after lunch break, Jaitley said, “Discussion should continue, opposition parties are running away from debate. PM will take part in the debate.”