Politics over farmers rocks parliament

February 27th, 2008 - 8:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
(Roundup)

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) With the election fever slowly gripping the country, politics over farmers’ plight and the agrarian crisis dominated parliament proceedings Wednesday, forcing repeated adjournments of both houses without any major business being transacted. Although the main opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the third grouping of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and the Left parties disrupted the proceedings and demanded relief for farmers, the ruling Congress claimed that it was an attempt to “hijack the credit” for the “programmes it was planning for the farmers”.

Both houses of parliament were stalled as UNPA members created uproarious scenes, demanding a package for the farm sector and a waiver of loans.

Congress leaders alleged the opposition as well as the UNPA parties were trying to take the credit for the schemes that the party-led government was planning to include in the budget for solving the agrarian crisis.

“The Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) has already conveyed to the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and the government that there should be a package for farmers in the budget,” said a party leader, who did not want to be identified.

Congress ministers said the opposition and others should wait for the budget instead of disrupting the house proceedings.

“We fail to understand what mileage could be achieved by disrupting the house. They should wait till the budget is presented,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters in the parliament complex.

“Opposition should allow the house to function,” he said, pointing out that the leaders of all parties including Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani had assured that there not be a pandemonium in the budget session that began Monday.

“The Congress president and the prime minister have utmost concerns for the farmers’ plight,” Dasmunsi said.

However, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Mohammed Salim, who was also on his feet in the Lok Sabha, denied the Congress’ claim. “We have been organizing rallies and demonstrations across the country, demanding a relief package for the farmers for the last one year,” Salim said.

Both houses witnessed acrimonious scenes as soon as parliament met in the morning.

While the UNPA members and a section of the NDA MPs ran to the centre of the house raising slogans and demanding a package for farmers in Vidarbha region in Maharashtra and draught-hit Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) members led by Sadhu Yadav and Ramkripal Yadav shouted slogans supporting north Indian migrants in Maharashtra.

They were referring to the recent attacks against migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh by Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnrimal Sena.

Although Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee warned that he would take action against those who rush to the well, the MPs did so again when the house met at 12 noon, after an hour-long break.

In the Rajya Sabha, the government managed to pass the Maternity Benefits Amendment Bill, 2007, by a voice vote that will enable women working in factories, shops and plantations to get more maternity benefits.

The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill and it will now be sent to President Pratibha Patil for her assent.

Under the new law, the medical bonus paid to women as maternity benefit will be increased to Rs.1,000 from Rs.250 if no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care is provided by the employer free of charge.

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