New Delhi, September 14

Lok Sabha on Monday decided to do away with Question Hour and private members’ business during the Monsoon session, inviting strong criticism from opposition members who accused the government of stifling democracy.

The first day of the Monsoon Session on Monday saw Opposition leaders challenging the government on many issues in the Lok Sabha, including the scrapping of the Question Hour and the introduction of the three agriculture related legislations to replace the Ordinances promulgated amid the Covid-lockdown in June.

The lower house adopted the motion to suspend Question Hour, with the government maintaining that it is not running away from discussion and will reply to all questions raised by the opposition.

During the four-hour plus Session, which included an adjournment of an hour following obituary references to former President Pranab Mukherjee and other sitting and former MPs and Pandit Jasraj who passed away recently, the Lok Sabha also cleared two Bills—the National Commission for Homeopathy Bill, 2020, and the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2020.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, who moved the motionto suspend question hour, maintained that the government was “not running away will reply to all questions raised by the Opposition”.

“There are so many ways to question the government,” Joshi said, adding that before arriving at this decision deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had spoke to leaders of all parties and majority had agreed.

“I would like to tell leaders who questioned the suspension of Question Hour that all state assemblies including Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, have run sessions for a day or two and passed several bills. We (Government of India) have decided to run Parliament for 18 days and hold discussion on bills,” Joshi said. He also added that in past five years 60 per cent of Question Hour in Rajya Sabha and 40 per cent in Lok Sabha was wasted.

The house also debated three farm Bills—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020—that Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar introduced in the Lok Sabha to replace exist ordinancess.

Responding to accusations that through these measures the government was planning to do away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP), Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the support price will stay “now and forever” and added that on the contrary the measures will enable barrier-free trade and empower farmers to engage with investors of their choice.

The development came on a day farmers organisations registered protests on the streets and also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the three “anti-farmer” Ordinances.

Several members of the opposition, including Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari and Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Choudhary protested the Bill. The opposition also accuses the government of “destroying the federal structure and farmers by giving the agriculture sector into the hands of a few corporates and doing away with the support price completely”.

The measures seek to creation an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce, the Agriculture Minister said.

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