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Lok Sabha Adjourned After Opposition Uproar; Bill Banning Strikes in Essential Defence Services Tabled Amid Din

PTI |
In Rajya Sabha, TMC MP snatches Pegasus statement from minister, tears it.
loksabha

New Delhi: Lok Sabha proceedings were repeatedly adjourned on Thursday amid sloganeering by Opposition members over various issues, including three recent farm laws and the Pegasus spyware row.

When the House re-assembled at 4 p.m after the repeated adjournments, the uproarious scenes continued even as Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was in the Chair, asked the protesting members to go back to their seats.

However, the Opposition members did not relent, forcing the Chair to adjourn the proceedings for the day.

The Lok Sabha will meet at 11 am on Friday.

Earlier, the proceedings were adjourned thrice and the last adjournment was till 4 pm.

The Opposition members raised slogans over a range of issues, including the Pegasus snooping row and demanding a rollback of the three farm Acts.

Bill to prohibit strikes in essential defence services

The government on Thursday introduced a Bill in Lok Sabha which seeks to prohibit any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services.

The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021, introduced by Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt amid din created by the Opposition over three new agri laws and the alleged Pegasus snooping controversy, seeks to replace an ordinance issued in June.

According to the Statements of Objects and Reasons of the Bill,  Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial set up which functions under the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence.

The ordnance factories form an integrated base for indigenous production of defence hardware and equipment, with the primary objective of self-reliance in equipping the armed forces with the state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.

In order to improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies, the Government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into one or more one hundred per cent government-owned corporate entity or entities to be registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.

Against the decision, the recognised federations of the employees gave a notice for an indefinite strike. The conciliation proceedings initiated by the government at the level of Chief Labour Commissioner failed in the meeting held on June 15.

On June, 16, the government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings.

"In spite of the government's assurance to take care of the conditions of service of the employees of the Ordnance Factory Board, the recognised federations of the employees have reiterated their intention to go on an indefinite strike from July 26.

"Since, it is essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country and the ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions, especially in view of the prevailing situation on the northern front of the country, it was felt necessary that the government should have power to meet the emergency created by such attempts and ensure the maintenance of essential defence services in all establishments connected with defence, in public interest or interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or security of any State or decency or morality," it read.

The Statement of Objects said the ordinance issued on June 30 defines the expressions "essential defence services" and "strike".

It also empowers the central government to prohibit strike in essential defence services and provides for disciplinary action, including dismissal, against employees participating in strike.It also provides for penalties for "illegal strikes, instigation thereof and providing for financial aid to such illegal strikes."

Rajya Sabha: TMC MP snatches Pegasus statement, tears it

A Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP snatched papers from Communications and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and tore those as the minister was about to make a statement on the alleged snooping row using Israeli spyware Pegasus.

TMC, Congress and other Opposition party members, who had earlier forced two adjournments of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, rushed into the well of the House as Vaishnaw was called to make a statement on the issue.

TMC MP Shantanu Sen snatched the papers from the hands of the minister, tore and flung those in the air.

This stopped the minister in his steps from making the statement and he said he was laying a copy of it on the table of the House.

Deputy Chairman Harivansh asked the members to desist from unparliamentary behaviour, before adjourning the proceedings of the House for the day.

"Please do not adhere to this unparliamentary practice," Harivansh said, adding that the report that all MPs want to hear has now been laid on the table of the House and it can be discussed.

He called the minister to read his statement and Vaishnaw read out a few sentences before the ruckus drowned his voice and he said he was laying the statement on the table of the House.

He said the minister has laid the statement on the table of the House and asked if the MPs want to ask him any questions on that.

But the opposition MPs continued to raise slogans against the alleged snooping controversy.

In the ruckus, the deputy chairman sought laying of the parliamentary committee reports that could not be laid at the scheduled hour in the morning due to opposition protests.

Soon after, he adjourned the proceedings for the day.

The statement that the minister laid on the table of the House was similar to the one he had made on July 19, a day after reports appeared of journalists, political rivals and critics of the government being targeted through surveillance using Israeli company NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.

In the statement, Vaishnaw, whose phone number was among those listed as compromised by Washington Post, called the reports an "attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions".

Amid the ruckus, Vaishnaw implored all members of the House to "examine the issue on facts and logic".

The phone numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa and others were said to be the potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, which allows clients to infiltrate phones and monitor text messages, camera feeds and microphones.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tried to raise the issues of income-tax raids on newspaper group Dainik Bhaskar, but was disallowed by the chair.

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