Chaos in both houses over Congress President’s Mallikarjun Kharge’s comments; RS discusses demand for additional funds, LS takes up discussion on drug menace

Tuesday witnessed chaos in both houses of the parliament over Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s recent comments during the party’s ongoing Bharat Jodho Yatra in Alwar, Rajasthan. Other than this, the Rajya Sabha discussed the treasury’s demand for additional funds with the Lok Sabha taking up a discussion on the drug menace in the country.

Further, nominated member of the Rajya Sabha PT Usha was made part of the panel of Vice Chairman of the Upper House. This is the first such instance in the country’s parliamentary history that a nominated member has been made part of the panel.

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Rajya Sabha 

Proceedings commenced in the Rajya Sabha with Chair Jagdeep Dhankar announcing that nominated member PT Usha was made a part of the panel of the Vice Chairman of the Upper House. It is a first that a nominated member has been made part of this panel. 

Soon, the upper house descended into chaos over Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s statement at the Bharat Jodho rally in Rajasthan. He had said that Congress leaders sacrificed their lives for the country and questioned whether BJP leaders did so. 

Reacting to the chaos, the Congress President argued that his statements were made outside the House, in addition to, reiterating his stance. “I said Indira Gandhi & Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed themselves. Who among you gave your life for unity of this country?” he asked. Leader of Opposition Piyush Goyal questioned his words, asking him about their actions in Jammu & Kashmir. 

Later, as Zero Hour proceeded, MP Fauzia Khan spoke about the dangers of acid attacks and asked for regulation of e-commerce websites selling acid. 

She said there is a high prevalence of illegal sale of acid, adding that while there are rules, there were problems in implementation. Pointing to the December 14 case wherein the accused procured acid from e-commerce retailer, Flipkart, she stated it was cheap and easy to find hydrochloric acid on e-commerce websites.

The post-lunch session the Upper House saw members debate on the Appropriation Bills moved by the Centre. The two Bills seek additional funds from the Consolidated Fund of India through Supplementary Demands for this year’s budget. 

The Congress criticised the government for “gross miscalculation of expenditure” in the Budget, questioning whether there was any “misplaced focus” when the funds were allocated.  

BJP members, meanwhile, defending the government stating that the economy was in good health. MP from Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Anil Aggarwal, said that non-performing assets (NPAs) under the Modi government had been reduced by around 7.2% and the government had been successful in keeping the fiscal deficit under 6.4%:  

In retort, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that the government was explaining its request for more funds by giving the reasoning of the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, pandemic, and inflation, but it was actually trying to cover up its “failures”. She said that there is a vast difference between government data on GDP growth and the reality. She stated that the World Bank, Moody’s, S&P, OECD, and IMF, all has projected the growth to be less.  

While members concluded their debate on the Appropriation Bills on Tuesday evening, the Finance Minister’s reply is expected tomorrow. 

Lok Sabha 

Treasury benches in the lower house objected to the Congress President’s remarks. Noisy scenes followed as the Opposition also started to protest. Amid the din, Speaker Om Birla briefly adjourned the House.  

Proceedings resumed with the Question Hour which dealt with issues such as the promotion of animal husbandry, change in the pre-matric scholarship scheme, cyber frauds and the impact of bifurcation in the release of central funds.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah then moved a resolution to refer the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2022 to the Joint Committee of Parliament. The panel has been tasked to submit its report to the Lok Sabha by the first week of the second part of the 2023 Budget Session. 

During the zero hour, MPs expressed their concerns on the recent Bihar hooch tragedy. JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alleged that constitutional institutions were being misused as he raised questions on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probe in the Chhapra case. BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad backed the NHRC probe and said even the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPR) should carry out a probe. LJP leader Chirag Paswan demanded President’s Rule in Bihar. 

The post-lunch session began with a discussion on the problem of drug abuse.  

Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal expressed concern over the situation in Punjab as she pinned the blame on the Congress and the ruling AAP. “Punjab is a burning volcano. [The State is] On the brink of a civil war if it is not controlled,” Ms. Badal said. “We find ‘don’t drink and drive’ signs on the roads, but they are drinking and driving the state,” the MP took a dig at Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann. 

All member put forth their united stance in tackling the drug menace. They emphasised that it was imperative that the government endows focus on preventing the uptake of such substances and not just stricter enforcement. They were equivocal in stating that the issue must not be politicised.  

NCP MP from Baramati (Maharashtra) observed that drug sales were facilitated more conveniently by the dark net and cryptocurrency, also shedding light on it being easily available near schools and colleges. 

She also emphasised on the importance of rehabilitation of drug addicts. Adding context about making Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officers being made more accountable, especially with respect to children of high-profile individuals who may be caught despite being innocent, she said, “If you pick up a child who needs help, s/he does not need to go to jail but a rehab centre because – they need help. They are not convicts. I think we need to relook at this policy,” she stated emphasising the regulatory enforcement has to be ‘fair and just’, the government must “not harass the children, but help the children.” 

Separately, Hasnain Masoodi, MP from Anantnag (Jammu & Kashmir) observed that the existing laws are enough to combat the drug menace in the country, it is the enforcement agency which “is not up to the mark”.  

BJP MP from Bengaluru South said the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Education and Health must come together to develop a multi-pronged strategy for endowing purposeful engagement activities so that the youth are not distracted to drugs. 

Referring to studies, the Bengaluru South MP stated that the cost of a young person taking to drugs is more cost-effective than investigation and enforcement at a belated stage. 

– Compiled by Sumeda, Saptaparno Ghosh, Srivatsan K C, Sruthi Darbhamulla, Reuben Joe Joseph and Priyali Prakash

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