New Delhi: The opposition continued to protest the government’s demonetisation move in both houses of Parliament on Monday. While the Lok Sabha adjourned till 2pm, a united opposition forced two adjournments in Rajya Sabha in the pre-noon session, asserting that no discussion on demonetisation would take place till the house mourns the nearly 70 deaths caused by hardships due to the withdrawal of higher denomination currency notes.
In the Lok sabha, a combined opposition disrupted the proceedings for the fourth consecutive day demanding discussion on demonetisation under a rule that entails voting, leading to adjournment of the House twice.
As soon as the proceedings began and the House paid tributes to those killed in a train accident in Kanpur, Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Left parties and the Aam Aadmi Party stormed the Well demanding admission of an adjournment motion to discuss the demonetisation under Rule 56, which ensures voting. However, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said the government was ready for the debate if the opposition allowed the discussion under Rule 193 that does not entail voting or passage of a resolution. The opposition, however, rejected the proposal.
As the joint opposition continued to shout slogans and raise banners claiming that common people have been suffering due to the demonetisation announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan initially declared that she would not adjourn the House and continued the Question Hour amid vociferous slogan-shouting. When some TMC members tried to come near HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, who was replying a question related to his Ministry with banners reading “Financial Emergency", an upset Mahajan told the opposition that she would tell the Lok Sabha TV authorities to show them on the TV screen and asked them not to disturb the minister. “If you want to come on TV, I will tell the Lok Sabha TV people to show you, but don’t disturb the minister," she said. At this, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told the Speaker that they were protesting in the House not to come on TV but due to the “sufferings" of the common people. “We are not here to be in the TV. We want to debate but the government is not listening to us," Kharge said.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was present in the House. While Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MPs were standing in the aisle supporting other opposition members over the demonetisation issue, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members were also on the aisles raising the issue of Tamil fishermen injured allegedly in firing by Sri Lankan Navy.
As the pandemonium continued, the Speaker adjourned the House for 10 minutes after carrying out 50 minutes of the proceedings in the din. “It is unfortunate that you do not want the House to function," she said. At noon when the House met for Zero Hour, the din continued even as railway minister Suresh Prabhu made a suo motu statement on the derailment of Indore-Patna Express in Kanpur rural area which has claimed over 133 lives so far. “This is really very sorry. You do not want to hear the minister," Mahajan said adjourning the House for the second time till 2pm.
In the Rajya Sabha, while the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), TMC and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM among others wanted a resolution condoling the deaths from the chair, Leader of the House and finance minister Arun Jaitley charged the opposition of running away from the demonetisation debate. Slogan-shouting opposition members rushed into the well of the House, forcing deputy chairman P.J. Kurien to first adjourn the proceedings till 11.30am and then again till noon.
“Why are they (opposition parties) running away from debate," Jaitley asked. “This is clear now that the opposition is not ready for debate and is coming up with new excuses to disrupt the House." Stating that the notice for suspension of business under Rule 267 was accepted on first day of the winter session and a debate had started, he said the reported deaths could come up during the course of this debate and the reply to it. No sooner that the House mourned the death of about 142 people in the derailment of Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur on Sunday, Sitaram Yechury (CPM) said an obituary reference condoling the death of 70 people due to hardships caused by the demonetisation should be moved by the chair. He was supported by Mayawati (BSP) who said people have died standing in queues because of hunger, want of medicines and waiting for currency for marriage.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress) said while condolences have been expressed for those killed in Sunday’s train accident, the same should be done for the 70 people who have lost their lives in last 15 days. “They are also citizens of this country. We want such an obituary reference to come from the chair," he said, adding that Prime Minister Narenda Modi should also come to the House for the debate. Kurien said if the members were ready, the discussion on demonetisation issue can resume immediately. “I would like to make it very clear that the chair is ready for discussion if you are ready," he said.
Stating that 11 bank employees were among the 70 who lost their lives, Yechury asked the chair to take the opinion of the House on moving a resolution condoling their death. He said the debate could be held after the obituary reference is made by the chair. Kurien, however, virtually ruled it out saying “condolences are not done on demand. That has to come spontaneously. You can approach the chairman (on that)." To this, Yechury said “take consensus of the House".
At this point, opposition Congress, BSP and TMC members rushed into the well shouting slogans. “Narendra Modi sharam karo, sharam karo (Narendra Modi you should be ashamed)", “Modi sadan mein jawab do (Modi reply in the House)", “poonjiwadio ki yeh sarkar nahi chalegi (this government of capitalists will not be tolerated)", “jan virodhi Narendra Modi sharam karo, sharam karo (shame on anti-people Narendra Modi)," they shouted.