Rajya Sabha proceedings disrupted over vacancies in statutory panels

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha proceedings were disrupted on Monday after Congress-led opposition created uproar over delay in filling up of vacancies in statutory commissions for minorities, SCs, STs and OBCs.

Soon after the House assembled for the day, the proceedings were adjourned thrice in quick succession due to the vociferous protests by the members.

The protests occurred after a Congress member raised the issue of the long-pending vacancies in these official panels during the Zero Hour and other members supported it.

Joined by SP, JD(U) and BSP members, Congress members trooped into the Well raising anti-government slogans, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn proceedings first for 10 minutes.

Narendra Budania (Cong) through a Zero Hour mention had raised the issue of vacant post of Chairman and all the five members in the National Commission of Minorities.

He alleged that the constitutional authority was being systematically weakened by means of “a well-thought out strategy” and said “this is dangerous for our democracy.”

He asked if the BJP government was giving a subtle message about the fate of the commission. “I want to ask the government if it has any plans to fill up the vacancies.”

Minority Affairs Minister and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Commission is being reconstituted by including representatives of Jain community and the vacancies will be filled up soon.

Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims are among the recognised minority communities.

Ahmed Patel (Cong) said the Chairman of the Commission can be appointed and Jain community can be included when the members are appointed.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said none of the four statutory commissions – National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Backward Classes and National Commission for Minorities – were fully constituted.

“Is this ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ that the BJP had promised when it came to power,” he asked.

At this point, SP, BSP and the CPI(M) members too joined the issue of vacancies in the statutory commissions.

Kurien said the minister has given an assurance that the appointments will be made. “After minister has given an assurance, what is the rationale of fighting?”

Not satisfied, Cong, SP and BSP members trooped into the Well shouting slogans against the government.

Renuka Chowdhry (Cong) said SCs in Telengana were not getting certificates for their children which was essential for getting admission in schools.

“No need of shouting. Minister has replied,” Kurien told the unrelenting members.

As slogan-shouting continued, he adjourned the proceedings for 10 minutes.

When the House reassembled at 1145 hours, Opposition members continued raising slogans and sought the government’s reply on the issue.

The Chair told them that he cannot allow a suo motu topic to be discussed during the Zero Hour without prior notice. “Give notice if you want discussion.”

Mayawati (BSP) said “you are violating the rights of the people. What is the view of the government? Whether it wants to close down the Minorities Commission?”

Digvijaya Singh (Cong) asked “Are you closing down the commission? Are minorities part of the government’s ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ (programme)?”

As the government did not heed their demand the Opposition members trooped into the Well, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House till 12:00 hours.

When it resumed at noon during Question Hour, similar scenes were witnessed, forcing Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House for 15 minutes for the third time.

When the House again met at 12:17 hours, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu rose to reply to the opposition concerns but Congress members again trooped into the Well and raised slogans.

BSP member Mayawati and JD-U leader Sharad Yadav sought to make a point on the issue, but Ansari said this was the Question Hour and asked members to take it up.

Amid the din, Naidu was heard telling the Chairman “If you want to find a solution to the issue, I will clarify to what they are saying.”

He said the opposition members have not given a notice and if that is done, “We are ready to discuss it”.

“What do they want? They do not want to resolve the issue. They only want to politicise the issue. This is not the way,” Naidu said.

He also charged the opposition with trying to create an uproar and not holding a discussion but could not be fully heard in the din, as opposition members raised slogans “Ayogon mein niyukti karo (Make appointments in Commissions)”.

As the opposition members continued their noisy protests and created a din in the Well, the Chairman adjourned the House till 1400 hours.