Parliament’s winter session: Protests wash out first week


New Delhi : The first week of parliament’s winter session ended Friday without transacting any business due to unending protests over inflation, corruption and a separate Telangana, to which was added the government’s decision to allow foreign equity in retail.

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This means that first four of the 21 sittings scheduled during the session have been wasted, even as the government eyed the considering and passing of 32 bills, including the crucial anti-graft Lokpal bill. So far, the two houses not considered any new bill.

On Friday when the two houses resumed after three days of protests, it was the government’s decision to allow up to 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retailing and 100 percent in the single-brand format that led to the logjam.

Opposition parties forced the adjournment of both houses demanding the rollback of the cabinet decision.

At the forefront of the Friday protest was the Trinamool Congress, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Trinamool Congress members gathered near Speaker Meira Kumar’s podium to protest the decision as soon as the house met at 11 a.m. They were joined in by MPs from the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in flaying the government.

MPs from the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the BJP were carrying banners inside the house asking the government to reverse its decision on FDI in retail.

The house also witnessed demonstrations and slogan shouting in favour of separate statehood for the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Congress MPs from the southern region were carrying placards demanding the government table the Telangana bill in the winter session.

Amid the din, Meira Kumar adjourned the house till noon after cancelling the question hour.

There was peace in the house when MPs reassembled at 12 noon and unanimously condemned the attack by a Delhi man on Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Thursday.

However, the peace didn’t last long. Noisy scenes returned soon after as MPs again protested the FDI decision.

Parliament did not run on the first three days of the session due to protests over rising prices and the demand of separate statehood for Telangana.

Protests were also witnessed in the Rajya Sabha where a united opposition created a bedlam against the FDI decision.

Shouting slogans against the government’s decision, the protesting members created ruckus in the house, forcing Chairman Hamid Ansari to first adjourn the house till 12 noon and then for the day.

On Friday, the government however managed to seek parliamentary approval for additional expenditure of Rs. 63,180 crore for the current year till March 31, 2012.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee tabled a statement in the Lok Sabha seeking the approval for second supplementary grants for 2011-12.

The next week is going to be crucial for the government’s floor management as it would be hoping to get some bills, including those related to the Lokpal and judicial accountability, passed.

Economic bills in this session include the pension bill that would give statutory backing to the regulator and the Life Insurance Corporation (Amendment) Bill to raise the equity capital of the state-owned institution to Rs.100 crore from Rs.5 crore.