A day after the Rajya Sabha kicked off spirited discussions on India's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressed the House on the criticisms and concerns of the Opposition.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh updated the Upper House with regard to the India-China border row, primarily in Ladakh. The House expressed solidarity with the soldiers and the government on this issue.
(For a concise report on the daily going-ons in the Parliament, subscribe to our political newsletter. Subscribe here and get it in your inbox.)
Here are the live updates:
Farmer's Bills will strengthen farmers, help us become 'atma nirbhar', says BJP MP Virendra Singh
"Perhaps the previous two speakers are not aware of the ground realities. Being a farmer, I do understand them well. The Agriclture Miinister has brought in the Bills to strengthen the farmers, which will help us become "atma nirbhar".I urge all members to speak in one voice for the farmers' benefit," says BJP MP Virendra Singh.
I talked to the farmers in UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other States. All of them said the proposed law would facilitate easy transportation of the produces to other States
This is a historic step being taken by the government.
Market forces always seek profit, the government is bringing in law to protect the farmers from them.
Farm ordinances aim to facilitate interests of corporates: N.K. Premachandran
RSP leader N.K. Premachandran questions the manner in which the ordinances were brought in. There was no justification for promulgating the ordinances.
What steps are taken to justify the livelihood of farmers? he asks.
The ordinances have been brought in to deregulate agriculture farming. The Member quotes NSSO figures on farmers income, suicide cases, to say that aggressive reforms in the agriculture sector has had an adverse impact of them.
NCRB reports show more than 3 lakh farmers ended their life, in between 1995-2005, he adds.
Farming community will be exploited, he says. All the ordinances aim to facilitate the interests of corporates, he states.
Worldwide contract farming has failed, he says, adding that he opposes the Billls.
Congress opposes Bills
Congress Member Ravneet Singh from Ludhiana (Punjab) opposes the Bills saying the farmers won't spare the government for the move. During the Covid-19 period, 80 crore people were given ration, if you remove Minimum Support Price (MSP), how will you ensure the required grain stocks in future.
Even your ally Akali Dal opposed the introduction of Essential Commodities Act, farmers are protesting in Punjab, Chhattisgarh.
You brought in the ordinances about six months ago, during which maize was sold at 700 instead of the MSP of 1,700, adds Mr. Singh.
"75% farmers in Punjab are not so affluent. We collect about 3,631 crore at mandis, which are used for the farmers' welfare infrastructures are created and maintained using the funds. Agriculture does not come under your legislative competence. Under the proposed law, will the small time farmers be able to resolve disputes with big players. Businessmen would set up mandis and operate without any licence. The Food Corporation of India procures grains for the entire country, you are now doing away with it," says the Congress MP.
The farmers may initially get more, but will eventually suffer huge losses due to the system of contract farming.
The member calls on all farmers of North India to join hands on the issue, urges the Prime Minister to withdraw the Bills.
House begins discussion on Farmer's bill
House to discuss the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill.
Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Farmers and Agriculture Welfare says, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill will help provide farmers with enough opportunity to develop agriculture.
Zero Hour suspended today
The Speaker turns down the adjournment motions, Zero Hour also suspended today, the members will be allowed to raise their issues later.
Speaker Om Birla extends birthday wishes to PM Modi
Lok Sabha resumes.
Speaker, Om Birla, on behalf of the House, greets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday.
Lok Sabha mourns demise of Tirupati MP
Lok Sabha assembles. Speaker Om Birla informs the passing away of Tirupati MP Balli Durgaprasad Rao. He died at a private hospital in Chennai on Wednesday.
Mr. Durgaprasad, 64, a native of Venkatagiri town, was earlier with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and jumped on to the YSR Congress PARty bandwagon just ahead of the elections.
House pays silent tribute to the departed MP.
House adjourned till 4 pm.
Eight regional parties held a joint protest in the Parliament house premises demanding that the GST dues that the centre owes to the States should be given at the earliest.
Parliamentarians from TMC, DMK, TRS, SP, AAP, NCP, RJD and Shiv Sena participated in the protest.
At a meeting of the GST council held on August 27, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had acknowledged that States are likely to face a GST revenue gap of 3 lakh crore this year, as the economy may contract due to COVID-19, which she termed an unforeseen act of God. The states were asked to borrow to meet the shortfall. So far, five state governments have rejected the centres suggestion.
Lok Sabha will assemble at 3 pm.
Bill to be introduced
- The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.
Bills for consideration and passing
- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
- The Appropriation (No.4) Bill,2020.
- The Appropriation (No.3) Bill,2020.
MPs express solidarity with soldiers, govt. on border issue
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad says we are all one when it comes to the integrity and sovereignty of the country. He recalls the times he had visited Siachen military posts.
China should return to where they were earlier, he says.
Different members of the House express solidarity with the soldiers and the government on this issue.
Defence Minister appreciates the expressions of solidarity by the MPs. "I do not want to say thank you, because we are one," he said.
Addressing the concern expressed by former Defence Minister A.K. Anthony wrt the patrolling limits, Mr. Singh says "I want to clarify that the face-off is because China stopping India from patrolling. There will be no change in patrolling pattern. No power on earth can stop our brave soldiers from patrolling along our land. It is to keep it that way that the discussion is on."
"I cannot say more due to operational reasons," he says.
With that, the Rajya Sabha adjourns for the day. The House will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, September 18.
Our soldiers should be allowed to patrol the areas as was the norm: AK Anthony
Congress MP Anand Sharma seeking clarification on the Defence Minister's statement, asks: "do we understand that the restoration of the status quo ante will remain non-negotiable for India."
Samajwadi Party MP Ravi Prakash Verma says the electronic media seems to have created situation of war.
Congress MP and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony says that the nation is totally with the armed forces. "What does it mean when Defence Minister says government will do everything to protect the sovereignty," he asks.
"Galwan Valley was never a disputed site. Now our soldiers not allowed patrol areas they used to earlier. We should be allowed to patrol where we used to," says Mr. Antony.
Chairperson M. Venklaiah Naidu speaks, in the capacity of Vice President. "India's culture has always preached Vasudaiva Kutumbakam. We have never attacked any country.
"Some international media have written about religious conflicts. We are all united," he says. Mr. Naidu asks the Defence Minister to take suggestions from political leaders, take them into confidence.
Congress member Anand Sharma says the country backs the Army. We are all united in this. Mr. Sharma asks if restoration of status quo will be non-negotiable.
More members express solidarity with the armed forces.
Rajnath Singh blames China for the situation in LAC
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefs Rajya Sabha on the situation along Line of Actual Control, including the Galwan Valley clash and Ladakh stand-off.
He had made a similar statement in Lok Sabha. It can be read here.
China has occupied 38,000 sq km of land, while Pakistan has handed over 5,000 sq.km. land from Pak Occupied Kashmir to China, he says and also speaks on the 1963 war.
He blames China for the situation in Ladakh. It was Chinese Army that provoked the Indian Army, he says.
After China has upped its infrastructure along the border, we have also ramped up our infrastructure, he says. He lauds ITBP for its role in protecting the border.
I would like to emphasise, that India remains committed to resolving the current issues in our border areas through peaceful dialogue and consultations, he says.
In the past too we have had situations of prolonged stand-offs in our border areas with China which have been resolved peacefully. We do remain committed to the peaceful resolution of the current situation. At the same time, the House can be assured that we remain prepared to deal with all contingencies, he says and ends the speech praising the armed forces.
Till a vaccine is available, masks and social distancing is a social vaccine: Health Minister
"U.S. and Brazil have 5-6 times more cases than us. Our mortality rate is the lowest in the world. We will leave America behind in the number of tests soon," Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said.
He added: "Masks are our biggest protector. Ever since unlock, people have assumed that the virus is gone and they don't need to wear masks or maintain distancing. This is wrong. Virus transmission is happening because of our own irresponsibility. Till a vaccine is available, masks and social distancing is a social vaccine."
Health Minister ends his reply.
A vaccine should be available in India next year, says Health Minister
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that about 1,700 labs were set up in the lockdown.
"The Prime Minister did not see which party was in power when deciding where to deploy equipment. Cobas machines were installed in Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Noida. We did capacity building in February and March," he said.
He added that the migrant workers did experience problems for some time, but the Home Ministry and Railways took many steps to help them.
On BCG vaccine, he said that ICMR was conducting trials at six sites and PM Modi is closely monitoring the vaccine matter also.
"Going 10 steps forward, detailed plans for vaccination are being made. Three vaccine candidates are being developed in India. We expect that a vaccine should be available in India next year," he added.
'More than 14 lakh cases prevented thanks to lockdown': Health Minister responds to criticism
Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan responds to House discussion on India's COVID-19 response.
"From January 8, the Prime Minister, the Ministers and State health ministers have been addressing the situation," he says. "All Chief Ministers have fought this battle with the PM," he adds.
"All types of advisories and details were given before the first case of COVID-19 in the country on January 30," he says, describing the extensive contact-tracing that was undertaken for that case. "For the first case, 162 contacts were traced. That is how we started our history of contact tracing," he says.
"History will remember Prime Minister Narendra Modi for meticulously monitoring the entire situation himself," says the Health Minister.
Responding to Congress MP Anand Sharma's query, the Minister says that five scientific agencies gave scientific data on the basis of which it was said 14-29 lakh cases were prevented by the lockdown.
Extend insurance to private doctors too, says TMC MP
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale says he gave the slogan of "go, corona go" in February in front of India Gate and woke up the country to the perils of the pandemic.
TMC MP Dr. Santanu Sen says Centre should adopt some of the novel efforts of States, citing West Bengal as an example. "Right now, only government doctors are covered under insurance schemes. This should be extended to private doctors working on the frontlines as well," he says.
Economic contraction minimised due to govt's measures, says Rajeev Chandrasekhar
The lockdown was unambiguously necessary, he says BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, adding that lockdowns are a necessary tools for government and will be there intermittently till a vaccine is available.
"The impact was expected when 60% of the economy was shut down for 8 weeks. It could have led go contraction of 40%, but did only 23% because of steps taken by the government. That's good news," says Mr. Chandrasekhar.
"When there is an economic loss in States due to floods etc, the Centre steps in. But this is a loss for the whole country and there is no else to pass on the losses to, unless China accepts it's responsibility and there is a case for reparations," he says.
He winds up his speech by thanking those fighting against the "China virus", and says that India step up to fill the void created by the world's distrust of China in the current context.
Opposition has become COVID expert in hindsight: Rajeev Chandrasekhar
BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar says the world hasn't experienced anything like this since the 1918 Spanish flu. "While there are many senior members in this House, I suspect none of us have experienced that," he says.
He questions the behaviour of the Chinese government and the origin of the virus, citing a recent report of a Chinese doctor claiming that the virus was made in a lab.
He says the Opposition and the government should work together to solve this, instead of making petty allegations, and says that the Opposition seems to have become COVID experts in hindsight.
Waiting for the vaccine eagerly: TRS MP
"Earlier the county would eagerly wait for Jaya Bachchan's movie release. Now the country is waiting for vaccine release," begins TRS MP K.R. Suresh Reddy.
He asks the government what it has done to speed up the vaccine process, and for clearing bottlenecks.
Allot 9,000 crore to Tamil Nadu for tackling COVID: Thambidurai
AIADMK MP M. Thambidurai says meeting the challenges of the pandemic requires coordination between Centre and States.
He requests the Centre to allocate 9,000 crore to Tamil Nadu for tackling COVID. He goes on to cite specific areas for which funds are required, including for farmers affecting problems.
On a lighter note, when Mr. Thambidurai was asked to conclude his speech as his allotted time is up, he responds that COVID hasn't concluded yet.
Be ready for last-mile delivery of vaccine: Gulam Nabi Azad
He cites his experience as the Health Minister in 2009-14 Cabinet, and says that he had taken the first shot of the H1N1 vaccine that was delveloped by India in 2010.
We must encourage domestic manufacturers of vaccines, he says. "And we must be ready for the last-mile delivery of the vaccine; it should not be like the lockdown. We can't waste time to formulate vaccination strategy later," he says.
Government should be over-cautious about the efficiency of the vaccine as we have a large and young population, Mr. Azad.
He winds up by saying that since hand-washing has multipled according to WHO's best practise guideline, the price of soaps (particularly Lifebuoy as it is accessible to the poor) and sanitizers should be halved.
Replace the term social distancing with physical distancing: Gulam Nabi Azad
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad says he has 8 to 10 minutes, of which he will give suggestions for nine minutes as many suggestions have come up in the discussion.
He says: "The government lost the golden months in addressing this pandemic. We should have been alert as it was in our neighborhood (China) that a mysterious pneumonia was being seen in December 2019."
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had warned of a tsunami that was about to hit the country, he says.
These are my suggestions, says Mr. Azad.
He says: "There should be dedicated infectious disease hospitals and fever clinics, instead of COVID-19 hospitals to reduce stigma. The term social distancing should be replaced with physical distancing."
UP has a population comparable to Brazil, but has done a better job of managing COVID: Trivedi
BJP MP Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi continues speaking on the Statement made by the Minister regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps taken by the Government of India.
In response to the Opposition questioning the lockdown announced with four hours notice, Dr. Trivedi says one can imagine the crowds at railway stations and bus stops had there been a two-day notice by seeing what happened in Anand Vihar terminal in Delhi and Tilak terminus in Mumbai.
He speaks about procuring the COVID-19 vaccine from Russia, and on indigenous vaccine production. He adds that Uttar Pradesh has a population comparable to Brazil and has done better job of controlling virus spread, managing cases and deaths.
He claims that the Opposition, which is in power in Punjab (the richest State), West Bengal and Kerala could have done a better job handling the pandemic before questioning the Centre, as health is a State subject. (Isolated shouts as members try to respond to this)
The BJP MP continues: "When Rahul Gandhi was speaking to eminent people on Twitter, Nobel prize winner Abhijit Banerjee said the States should address issues of migrant workers and Centre should support the State."
He winds up by reciting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it is his birthday today.
'Was spinning a charkha going to lead to the British leaving?'
BJP MP Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi says this pandemic is the biggest challenge in documented history.
He hits back at diya-lighting/clapping criticism, and says: "Many of our friends have a problem with lighting of diyas and banging thaalis. They don't know history. Was spinning a charkha going to lead to the British leaving? It was a symbol chosen by Gandhiji."
Without naming the "young, unmarried leader" (making abundantly clear that he is referring to Congress president Rahul Gandhi), Dr. Trivedi says that the leader claimed that he had tweeted about the intensity of coronavirus early in February. "The Centre was criticised for the Namaste Trump event and for not shutting down the airports earlier, but the young leader was tweeting this from a foreign location," says Dr. Trivedi.
As he goes on making political points, MPs protest that the BJP leader is straying from the topic. Deputy Chairman agrees, and says this is applicable to all members of the House.
PM has brought the country together emotionally: Vijaisai Reddy
YSRCP MP V. Vijaisai Reddy says the Centre's approach of balancing life and livelihood post 'Unlock' stage has been appreciated. "The Prime Minister has brought the nation together emotionally," he says.
Mr. Reddy says he suffered from COVID-19, but was able to recover as it was detected early one. He says that the early detection of the virus is key for surviving it. He adds that Andhra Pradesh has highest testing numbers out of States with population of over 3 crore.
Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh says the ruling party has been saying the Opposition did not support the PM Modi's "taali, thaali" initiative. "You bring such a foolish idea, and expect the country to be fooled?" he asks, as ruling party MPs protest.
If one COVID-19 patient can be cured of it, we will all sit here and clap and light diyas, he says.
Minor disruption ensues after Mr. Singh strongly rejects allegations of Delhi government mismanaging the pandemic response.
TN has done 'maximum' COVID deaths, says G.K. Vasan
Tamil Maanila Congress MP G.K. Vasan speaks about Tamil Nadu's coronavirus response.
He claims that the State is "effectively managing" the pandemic response by taking "all proactive steps". He says that State has done maximum COVID-19 tests in the country, and that the death rate in the State is one of the least.
BSP MP Veer Singh says unemployment has increased due to COVID-19 and the Centre's lockdown without any preparations affected the poor the most.
Distribute masks to poor for free: Binoy Viswam
CPI MP Binoy Viswam says it is unfortunate that the Health Minister did not mention Kerala in his statement. Kerala played an exemplary role in fighting COVID-19 right from the word go, he says.
He also commends all frontline workers, specifically mentioning the safai karamcharis, for their service in this regard, and says that the government should distribute free masks to all the poor in the country.
Children are missing crucial immunisations, says Priyanka Chaturvedi
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi says it was disappointing to see an MP politicise the pandemic issue despite saying it shouldn't be politicised.
She points out that the States are being treated unfairly as it is being deprived of funds. She also says that more than 1 million children have missed crucial immunisation.
TDP MP Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar says Andhra Pradesh government is under-reporting virus cases and that the Chief Minister is making unscientific claims like saying that paracetamol is the only medicine for COVID-19.
Facing shortage of oxygen cylinders, remdesivir: NCP MP
NCP MP Praful Patel begins by thanking the frontline workers for their service during the pandemic.
He says there is no fixed direction of the pandemic it started with the cities, and now it has spread across the country. "We have 1 lakh cases a day now and it is set to reach 2 lakh a day," he says.
He says that he read in newspapers that officials are saying that there is not shortage of oxygen cylinders and remdesivir drug, however the ground reality is different.
What is the PM CARES fund for if not for States, asks Sanjay Raut
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says he has personal experience with the danger of coronavirus as his elderly mother and younger brother are in the ICU, ailing from COVID-19.
He hits back at BJP MP Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe for his speech in the House on September 16, where Dr. Sahasrabuddhe criticised the Maharashtra govermnment's COVID response. Mr. Raut cites the example of the States successful arrest of spread of the virus in the heavily-populated Dharavi to refute Dr. Sahasrabuddhe's claims.
Maharashtra government has followed the protocol of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says Mr. Raut.
He says that the Centre has stopped funds for PPE kits, masks and other materials from September 1. "It will cost Maharashtra government 50 crore a day. What is the PM CARES fund for if not for States?," he asks.
Discussion on COVID-19 resumes.
Swapan Dasgupta, nominated member, resumes his speech from the previous session.
He asks the government what the scientific basis for a lockdown is and if a uniform guideline can be issued for lockdowns as States have imposed different versions which often are contradictory and causes confusion among the people.
Special mentions begin.
Congress MP K.C. Venugopal asks for a probe into Facebook's interference into India's electoral democracy.
Congress MP Ripun Bora says NEET and JEE exams should be held again as many students could not attend due to COVID-19 pandemic.
BJP MP Satish Chand Dubey raises issue of floods in Bihar every year.
YSRCP MP V. Vijaisai Reddy asks for special trains in Andhra Pradesh, says not a single train running from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu reminds the members of special protocols in place wrt the COVID-19 pandemic, including compulsory face masks and seated debates.
Release jailed J&K leaders, says MP
BJP MP Nabam Rebia says Arunachal Pradesh got statehood in 1987, but has not been given Constitutional protection yet. He asks the government to consider the Arunachal Pradesh government's demand of including the State in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
BJP MP Vivek Thakur begins by saying that during the COVID-19 discussion in the Upper House on the previous day, it was made out as though the government has not done anything good during the COVID-19 pandemic. Updating the House on the vaccine status, he says there are three companies working on COVID-19 vaccines that come from the country of origin of virus. Should we entertain them, he asks.
PDP MP Mir Mohammad Fayaz raises the matter of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir being under arrest for over a year after Article 370 was abrogated. He asks the government to release those who are still under arrest.
BJP MP Surendra Singh Nagar points out that the J&K administration has not included the third most spoken language, Gurjari, in its list of official languages. He asks the Centre to include Gurjari and Pahadi in the list.
Radio collars on Asiatic lions increasing their death rate?
Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil says radio collars put on Asiatic lions in Gir forest have led to increasing death rate. Chairman Venkaiah Naidu asks that this issue be noted and looked into.
MP Sanjay Raut asks permission to address the House standing up, which Chairman Venkaiah Naidu declines citing COVID-19 protocol.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says government is planning to privatise Jawaharlal Nehru Port and it will be a loss to the country's exchequer as land and property worth crores will pass on to private hands. He asks that the project be reconsidered.
Congress MP Dr. Amee Yagnik raises issue of patients who suffered from non-communicable diseases being unable to get treatment for non-COVID diseases as the focus is on COVID-19. She cites stalling procedures like chemotherapy, dialysis as an example. She asks the government for separate investment for diseases like cancer, diabetes, hypertension etc.
Samajwadi Party MP Ravi Prakash Verma raises the matter of floods along the Indo-Nepal border, and says the government should take up the matter considering the adverse impact it has on Indian villages.
Award frontline workers: request raised during Zero Hour
Papers laid on table, including Report of the Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Zero Hour begins. Samajwadi Party MP Vishwambhar Prasad Nishad raises matter of vacancies in reserved government jobs.
AIADMK MP from Puducherry N. Gokulakrishnan says that Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe citizens of the country are feeling apprehensive about their future as the reccomendations made in Mandal Commission report is implemented only on paper. He asks for moratorium on creamy layer principle till 27% reservation is filled.
BJP MP Lt. Gen (retd.) Dr. DP Vats says frontline corona warriors should be awarded service or peace-time gallantry awards similar to the ones granted to the military. He cites the example of air hostess Neerja Bhanot as a precedent.
Bill for Introduction
- Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020
Bills for consideration and passing
- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
Bills for Consideration and Passing
- Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020