An enraged Opposition unleashed pandemonium in both Houses of Parliament protesting against the Pegasus snoopgate scandal and completely disrupting the proceedings in Lok Sabha on the second day of the monsoon session, which eventually led to the adjournment of the House till July 22.
No business was conducted in the Lower House, as Opposition members carrying placards on “jasoosi” , displaying toy phones to register their protest against snooping and shouting slogans demanding the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, forced the chair to twice adjourn the House and then call it a day, said media reports
In the midst of this ruckus by the Opposition, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman however managed to table the Supplementary Demands for Grants for 2021-22 and laying of official papers, said a Deccan Herald report. A discussion on COVID-19 was also held in the Rajya Sabha after Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu met the floor leaders of various parties for a “discussion”, when the Upper House was adjourned for the second time for the day at 12 noon due to the continuous protests and storming of the well of the House.
Naidu called Leader of the House Piyush Goyal, opposition leaders Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Derek O’B Derek O’Brien, Tiruchi Siva and some others, and came to an understanding to resume normal functioning with a discussion on COVID management.
No deaths due to lack of oxygen: Junior Minister to Rajya Sabha
In the course of the COVID management discussion, to a question on whether a large number of COVID-19 patients had died on the roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave, MoS Health, Bharati Pravin Pawar told the Rajya Sabha, “Health is a State subject… No deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states/UTs,” TimesNow reported.
No reports of concealment of death were made by the state/UT government, she reiterated. However, some states based on the reconciliation of mortality data had revised their figures, she added. But, Bharati Pawar went on to admit that the demand for medical oxygen peaked due to unprecedented surge during the second wave. It went upto nearly 9,000 MT as compared to 3,095 MT during the first wave – and the central government had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution to the states.
Protests against Pegasus spyware
Media reports said that before the sessions flagged off in both Houses, leaders of various political parties in both houses of Parliament met to decide their strategy on highlighting the Pegasus spyware issue. Several had also given adjournment notices in both houses demanding a discussion on the issue. Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said the government should clearly tell whether it has purchased the Pegasus spyware or not and hold a joint parliamentary probe, said an Indian express report.
While the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge set the mood before the session by telling the media: “We will raise this (Pegasus) issue… Nobody is obstructing nation’s development, it’s them (BJP) who have obstructed it. They have earned lakhs and crores of money by imposing cess, hiking fuel price, wasting money on projects.”
The Congress and the TMC, along with other parties, had in the end effectively stalled the proceedings of both houses of Parliament on Tuesday (June 20). Some opposition members shouted slogans like “snooping” government, while some placards sought to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, another said, “Snoopgate, Gujarat Model, Now National”.
The Shiv Sena members too submitted a memorandum to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking a probe in ‘Pegasus Project’ media report by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, said an Indian Express report.
Rajya Sabha witnessed three adjournments before the debate on COVID-19 started.
Discussion on COVID-19 in RS
In a written response to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh gave updates on four COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which were at different stages of human trials. While one, developed by Genique Life Sciences, is in the advanced pre-clinical stage, Cadila Healthcare Ltd’s DNA-based vaccine candidate is in phase three clinical trial, he said. It has also submitted the interim data for emergency use authorisation.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya rubbished claims that states do not have vaccines. He told the Rajya Sabha that he did not want to “do politics but many states have 10-15 lakh doses of vaccines with them, I have data.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut questioned the government as to why they were hiding the data on death toll. “Tell us, how many people have lost their lives (due to COVID). Reports say more (deaths) than govt’s official figures,” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut asked. To which Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, “Uninformed comment is bad enough but when an attempt is made to deliberately produce a false narrative, it’s an even more serious matter. Even one death of any Indian citizen on account of any cause, whether Covid or non-Covid related, is a matter of regret.”
It was left to Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal to raise the issue of the contentious farmers bill. She said that Opposition parties like Congress and AAP did not care about farmers and were “double-faced.” The parties raised all issues in Parliament, except farmers’ issues, Badal said.