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Modi govt lists 17 new bills in Monsoon session, Opposition to raise issue of Covid management

The Opposition parties are also planning to give an adjournment notice over 'phone tapping' of their leaders and corner the govt over fuel prices.

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New Delhi: The government has readied a big legislative agenda for the Monsoon Session of Parliament beginning Monday even as the opposition is raring to corner the ruling dispensation over a host of issues, including handling of the second wave of COVID-19, rise in fuel prices and farmers’ stir.

During the session, the issue of an international media consortium report would find echo in the two Houses. It claimed that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of business persons and activists, could have been targeted for hacking through an Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies,

The opposition would use it to target the government as some of the members have decided to gives notices of adjournment motion to discuss the matter on the floor of the House.

The government, however, dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part, saying it “has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever”.

Asserting that “India is a robust democracy that is committed to ensuring the right to privacy to all its citizens as a fundamental right”, it dismissed the media report as an attempt to play “the role of an investigator, prosecutor as well as jury”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday told an all-party meeting that the government was ready for a healthy and meaningful discussion on issues in Parliament, according to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.

An official statement later said Modi told floor leaders that according to country’s traditions of healthy democracy, issues concerning people should be raised in an amicable manner and the government should be given an opportunity to respond to these discussions.

Modi said it is everyone’s responsibility to create such a conducive environment and added that people’s representatives truly know the ground-level situation, hence their participation in these discussions enriches the decision-making process.

Upping the ante, several opposition parties were planning to move adjournment notices in both Houses on Monday over farmers’ issues.

Opposition parties held a separate meeting after the all-party meet which was attended by 33 parties.

Many opposition parties will give adjournment notices on the farmers’ issue in both Houses, RSP leader N K Premachandran said after the meeting that was attended by leaders of Congress, TMC, NCP, CPI(M), CPI, IUML, RSP, Shiv Sena and AAP.

During the all-party meet, opposition parties objected to government’s offer for a joint address to all MPs by the PM onOVID-19 at the Parliament annexe, saying this will be “highly irregular” at a time when Parliament will be in session and it aims to “bypass” norms.

Leaders, including from TMC and CPI(M), also said when the pandemic and issues related to it can be discussed on the floor of the House, what was the need to go “outside”.

The annexe is a separate building within the premises of the Parliament complex.

“What is the need to go outside Parliament? Any address should be on the floor of the House,” TMC RS member Derek O’Brien, who was at the meeting, said.

Also read: What is Pegasus? The ‘ultimate spyware’ used for surveillance

Sources in other opposition parties confirmed that Joshi’s offer has been refused and that some have even suggested a joint sitting of the Houses at Central Hall.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the party’s position has always been that when Parliament is in session, whatever the government has to say, it can do so on the floor of the House.

“It is highly irregular for the government to do this. When the Parliament is in session, any address or presentation the government wants to make, it has to be done from inside Parliament,” he said.

O’Brien claimed all opposition leaders in the meeting, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav and BSP’s Satish Misra refused to be addressed “outside” Parliament.

In another development, various parties, including the Congress and the TMC, demanded restoration of MPLAD funds in the all-party meeting chaired by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, sources said.

Birla assured them he will raise the issue with the government and its top functionaries, they said.

The government has listed 17 new bills for introduction in the session. Three of the bills seek to replace ordinances issued recently.

One of the ordinances issued on June 30, prohibits any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services.

The Essential Defence Services Ordinance 2021 came in the backdrop of the announcement by major federations of the Ordnance Factory Board to go on an indefinite strike from the later part of July to protest the government’s decision to corporatise the OFB.

The Essential Defence Service Bill, 2021 has been listed to replace the ordinance, according to an LS bulletin.

The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 is another measure that seeks to replace an ordinance.

The opposition wants to raise issues like alleged shortcomings in the healthcare system during the second wave and the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to states.

It would also seek replies on the rising prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas during the session which would end on August 13.

Sources said several opposition parties are also planning to give an adjournment notice over the alleged phone tapping of their leaders.

Also read: List of Indian journalists, activists allegedly put on surveillance using Pegasus


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