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Opp demands discussion on rising fuel price, Cong’s Mallikarjun Kharge debuts as leader of Opposition

The Opposition wanted to embarrass the government on the quick revisions of the petrol and diesel prices as it affected common man.

DEEPAK RAZDAN | New Delhi |

Parliament resumed its Budget Session last week with minimal business because of repeated adjournments.

The Opposition wanted immediate discussion on petroleum price-hikes, but the presiding officers declined, saying the members could raise the subject while discussing the budgetary demands later.

The Opposition wanted to embarrass the government on the quick revisions of the petrol and diesel prices as it affected common man.

An early discussion would have reflected the public mood and extract an explanation from the Government.

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Om Birla told the House that the subject could be discussed along with the finance Bill.

Leader of the Congress party Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury complained on Tuesday morning that the television broadcast of the House proceedings had blacked out Opposition members, while they were speaking.

The Question Hour remained disrupted in both Houses.

In the Rajya Sabha, on Monday, veteran Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge, making his debut as the Leader of the Opposition, gave a notice under Rule 267 for adjournment of business to discuss the fuel price issue.

Responding to this, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he had rejected it, as the House could discuss the subject during the Appropriation Bill debate.

Kharge said that the price of petrol had reached Rs 100 per litre and that of diesel about Rs 80 and a major reason for this was the rise in excise duty on diesel by 820 per cent and on petrol by 258 per cent after 2014, he said.

The Chairman said he had discretionary powers under Rule 267 to turn down the request, although nearly all Opposition supported Kharge’s move.

A series of adjournments followed. The scene repeated during the next two days also.

On Tuesday, Deputy Chairman Harivansh, presiding in Naidu’s absence, said a ruling once given by the Chairman could not be “re-opened.”

The Opposition members entered the well of the House to press their point. Kharge said the Opposition was not against taking up of legislative business but wanted the burning issue of petroleum prices taken up first.

He maintained Harivansh was not bound by the Chairman’s Monday ruling, and could look at the issue afresh.But the Deputy Chairman declined.

On the third working day of the week, the confrontation continued, and the Opposition raised slogans on the contentious farm laws also.

The Chairman reminded the Opposition that the repeal of laws could be done only if the majority of members wanted it.

Later, the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Bill, that was to replace an Ordinance, was passed amidst the din.

The Lok Sabha too passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to regularise Delhi’s unauthorised colonies, in less than 30 minutes.

The presiding officers in both Houses made observations on the International Women’s Day on 8 March, but women members could speak only briefly on the subject.

In the Lok Sabha, a Calling Attention on the Empowerment of Women was converted into a Short Duration Discussion but only four members could speak for 25 minutes and the House was adjourned due to interruptions.

B V Satyavathi (YSRCP) initiated the discussion and said she was a gynaecologist and had seen discrimination against women at first hand.

In the Upper House, Naidu said this was “a day to take stock of the hurdles coming in the way of ensuring women their worth in all walks of life and socio-economic development.”

He advised members not to bring “politics” in their observations. Nine women members got about 20 minutes to speak on the issue. Chhaya Verma (Congress) initiated saying that daughters were not safe anywhere.

Welcoming the members for the second part of the Budget Session, Naidu said the two Houses of Parliament took a three-week break for examination of the Demands for Grants of various Ministries and Departments, for the financial year 2021-22, by 24 Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committees.