Scheduled to end August 13, Parliament’s monsoon session has been disrupted by the row over alleged surveillance through the use of the Pegasus spyware.
Accusing Lok Sabha TV of shutting it out, the Opposition, which has been seeking a discussion on the Pegasus issue and farm laws that triggered the farmer agitation, says its protests are only shown on screens inside the House, and not beamed across the country.
On Friday, when Lok Sabha last met, LSTV showed Opposition protests for all of 72 seconds – House proceedings lasted a total of 45 minutes over two sittings that day.
Opposition MPs, however, were not in their seats, except during the first few minutes when Speaker Om Birla paid tribute to the victims of the 1945 Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings and congratulated India’s wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya for winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Members of the Congress, DMK, Left parties and TMC were in the well of the House, protesting during the proceedings which lasted from 11 am to 11.21 am.
When the House met again at noon, the government passed two key Bills – The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to do away with the policy of retrospective taxation and The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to provide for the establishment of a university in the Union Territory of Ladakh – amidst slogan shouting by Opposition MPs.
PM @narendramodi seems to have lost his nerves. Why is he not keen on answering questions in the Parliament?
The opposition parties are ready for discussions in the Parliament, but @BJP4India Govt is stalling the proceedings so that the truth doesn’t get to the people. pic.twitter.com/1IpOxj2TX8
— Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha (@LoPIndia) August 8, 2021
The live telecast of the proceedings did not really reveal what exactly happened inside Lok Sabha. Sources in LSTV said the TV screens in the House are part of the CCTV system, while the camera feed used by the channel is different. “LSTV is responsible for only what is telecast. CCTVs or its cameras are not under our control,” sources said.
Manoj K Arora, Editor-in-Chief cum Chief Executive of LSTV, said the channel follows rules laid down for it. “The LSTV transmission is as per the rules which say it should be a true reflection of what’s happening inside the House,” Arora told The Indian Express.
The channel, sources said, is expected to provide an overall view, but when the Speaker or the Chair speaks or the Prime Minister speaks, it has to focus on them. The rules also say the focus should be on the member who is speaking, be it for question-answer, matters of public importance or participation in a debate.
On Friday, The Indian Express tracked proceedings, minute by minute, from the press gallery inside Lok Sabha and the telecast on LSTV. This is what really happened:
* 11 am: Speaker Om Birla enters the House. He recalls the destruction when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed 76 years ago. He calls for a pledge to live in peace and harmony.
* 11.02: Speaker congratulates wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya for winning a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics. MPs join him by thumping the desk.
* 11.03: Speaker starts Question Hour. Starts with a question relating to institutional deliveries by states during the pandemic. Union Ministers Bhupender Yadav, Pralhad Joshi, Smriti Irani are present. Opposition MPs leave their seats. Congress MP Manickam Tagore is the first to walk towards the treasury benches, shouting slogans. He is followed by TMC’s Aparupa Poddar, Abu Taher Khan and Mahua Moitra, Congress’s Jasbir Singh Gill, Benny Behanan, Hibi Eden, T N Prathapan and Dean Kuriakose.
* 11.04: Mahua Moitra raises a placard and the slogan of “Pegasus pe jaanch karo (investigate Pegasus)”.
* 11.05: DMK’s T R Baalu, NC MP Hasnain Masoodi rise from their seats. Congress MPs Gaurav Gogoi and Ravneet Singh Bittu shout slogans against the government.
* 11.06: Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya says his junior minister Dr Bharati Pawar is going to answer a question. Urges the Opposition to listen to “a tribal” woman minister. Opposition continues to protest.
* 11.07: Pawar starts her reply. Opposition MPs try to block her. Prathapan holds a placard, seeking a SC-monitored probe into Pegasus, before her. DMK’s Veeraswamy Kalanidhi holds another placard.
* 11.12: Speaker takes up another question. More Opposition MPs join the protest in the well. SAD MP Harsimrat Kaur carries a placard, seeking justice for farmers, and a wheat flower bunch. BJP’s Jamyang Tsering Namgyal has a question on environmental issues in the Himalayan region. Bhupender Yadav replies.
* 11.13: Congress MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla leads sloganeering against the government.
* 11: 14: Opposition MPs are now standing around the desk of reporters in the well of the House.
* 11.15: As Bhupender Yadav replies, Prathapan and Kalanidhi try to block him with placards. The minister’s face is not visible on the screens inside.
* 11.17: Hibi Eden takes the lead in slogan shouting, says the government is scared.
* 11.18: Minister Jitender Singh replies to a question on exploration of ocean resources.
* 11.19: Speaker calls for three questions.
* 11.20: Sukhbir Singh Badal on his feet with a placard in support of farmers. Smriti Irani replies to BJD’s Sarmistha Sethi’s query on the national nutrition mission. Opposition intensifies slogan shouting.
* 11.21: Speaker asks MPs to return to their seats and hold a discussion. Adjourns proceedings till noon.
* Noon: BJP’s Rajendra Agrawal takes the Chair. Mahua Moitra leads TMC MPs to the well of the House.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury rises to say: “It has been three weeks… the House has not been running properly. No work is done.” At this, Ministers Pralhad Joshi and Arjun Ram Meghwal protest.
* 12.01 pm: Chowdhury says: “I want to give a warning to the government.. Mann ki Baat… What you are doing is not right. You cannot be intoxicated with power.”
* 12.02: Meghwal: “It’s wrong. We are ready for discussion. We have listed Covid management to discuss.”
* 12.03: The Chair calls for tabling the papers as listed in the agenda. Meghwal tables the papers. Ministers table action taken reports and other statements.
* 12.04: Gogoi leads the sloganeering. Opposition MPs surround the Secretary General’s table and raise slogans. The Chair asks them to return to their seats.
* 12.07: Opposition MPs raise slogans in Bangla: “Khela hobe, khela hobe.” Congress MP Vishnu Pramod leads them.
* 12.09: Opposition chants slogans in Tamil, seeking a debate.
* 12.11: Meghwal presents the Business Advisory Committee report for next week.
* 12.12: Mahua Moitra leads slogans against the government.
* 12.13: Chair calls Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to move the Taxation Amendment Bill. She moves the Bill for consideration and passage, and makes an opening remark.
* 12.14: Mahua Moitra and Aparupa Poddar start booing. Other Opposition MPs join them. Some try to block Sitharaman’s face from being visible on the screen. Posters are visible on screens inside the House.
* 12.17: The Chair puts the Bill to voice vote. BJP MPs say aye. The Chair puts the Bill to vote, clause by clause, and it is passed.
* 12.19: The Chair calls Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to move the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill 2021.
* 12.20: Pradhan moves the Bill for consideration and passage. He makes opening remarks. Opposition intensifies its slogan shouting.
* 12.24: Pradhan takes his seat. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury says: “We have raised a genuine demand to roll back the farmers’ Bills.” Meghwal says: “You are responsible for not having a debate.” The Bill is put to vote and passed. Opposition MPs shout: “Jawab do, jawab do (give us a reply)”. House adjourns for the day to meet again on Monday.