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Oppn MPs hold first-ever night protests in Parliament complex

NEW DELHI With Opposition MPs continuing their sit-in protest near the Gandhi statue, protests in Parliament saw its first-ever night shift on Monday, adding to the several “new normal” unveiled in the monsoon session.

Initially, the MPs refused to leave the House after being suspended by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu for “gross disorderly conduct.” After the House was adjourned for the day, the MPs shifted base to near the Gandhi statue—the favourite spot for protests inside the Parliament complex.

It was a long haul but they didn’t look tired. They received a regular supply of snacks, packed juices and cold drinks as well as a steady stream of supportive leaders: Ahmed Patel, Gaurav Gogoi of Congress, Manoj Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and several Trinamool Congress leaders joined the protesting MPs to express solidarity.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee called up and spoke to the MPs staging the agitation. She also tweeted, “Suspension of the 8 MPs who fought to protect farmers interests is unfortunate & reflective of this autocratic Govt’s mindset that doesn’t respect democratic norms & principles. We won’t bow down & we’ll fight this fascist Govt in Parliament & on the streets.”

Colourful bed sheets were hurriedly brought from an MP’s flats from South Avenue. The aides also ensured enough supply of food for the MPs to sustain them. In the evening, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s KK Ragesh told others that his wife was preparing idlis at home. He was asked to bring them after 7pm.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh spent time giving interviews, Trinamool’s Dola Sen started singing songs and protestors held placards screaming “We will fight for farmers”, “democracy murdered” and “parliament assassinated.”

Apart from packed thalis, boxful of snacks were also supplied. Trinamool Congress floor leader Derek O’Brien, one of the eight suspended MPs, announced, “We will continue to sit in protest overnight. Our protest will not end soon.”

Indian Parliament is no stranger to unique protests. In the 70s, Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived in Parliament in a bullock cart to oppose the hike in fuel by the Indira Gandhi government. Last year, when the government was celebrating Constitution Day, Congress and other Opposition parties gathered near BR Ambedkar’s statue in the Parliament lawn and read out different articles of the Constitution.

Later in the day, leaders of 18 political parties, including the Congress, Left parties, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena and the RJD, submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind, seeking his intervention in the matter.

The leaders urged the President to not grant his assent to the proposed legislations and expressed concern over the way farm bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha.

“We, belonging to diverse political parties cutting across India’s political and geographical spectrum, bring this representation to you to respectfully draw your urgent attention to the absolute and total murder of democracy, ironically in the most hallowed temple of democracy, Parliament,” read the memorandum.

“We pray that you return the bills and do not append your signature,” it added.

No one can stop Army from patrolling: Rajnath Singh

NEW DELHI, Sept 17: No power in the world can stop Indian forces from patrolling areas where they have traditionally done so, defence minister Rajnath Singh asserted in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, adding that China has amassed troops on the border for which the Army had made appropriate counter-deployments.

In a detailed statement on the situation in the Upper House, Singh said the recent action of the Chinese forces of amassing a large number of troops reflects a disregard for bilateral pacts, adding that the Indian forces were capable of dealing with any challenge. He, however, underlined that the differences can best be dealt with peacefully.

Responding to concerns expressed by members on the Chinese side obstructing Indian patrols, Singh said no change in the patrolling pattern would be allowed.“On patrolling pattern, I want to make clear that that is the reason behind the face-off. The patrolling pattern is traditional and well defined. No power in the world can stop our jawans from patrolling. If our soldiers have made sacrifices, this is the very reason for doing so. And there will be no changes in the patrolling pattern,” Singh said.

Earlier, several members, including former defence minister A K Antony, had expressed concerns about Indian patrol not being allowed up to traditional points. Many members also said there should be restoration of status quo ante.

In a detailed statement in the House, Singh underlined that while India was committed to peace, it was also firm on protecting its boundaries. The defence minister said it had been conveyed to the Chinese side that the situation at the boundary will also have an implication on other areas.

Singh told the Upper House that the India-China boundary issue is unresolved. China believes the boundary issue is still unsettled, he said adding that it also does not recognize the customary line.

Both countries discussed this in the 50s and the 60s but there was no solution. China has occupied 38,000 sq km of Indian land, Singh said.

He said during discussions, China has also accepted that a peaceful solution is needed. But till now, there is no commonly delineated Line of actual control on India-China border areas, he added.

“India believes bilateral relations and boundary question can be discussed. But the situation on LAC will definitely have an impact on the bilateral issues,” Singh said, adding that there is often a perception overlap in many places.

Singh said that this year, from April, China increased the number and weaponry on the border. “Our army took necessary measuress. We have made clear that unilateral status quo is not accepted under any circumstances,” Singh said.

He added that China had initiated a very violent face-off in Galwan. “Our soldiers responded and also inflicted losses on the transgressing side,” Singh said.

The defence minister said it was made to clear that LAC must be respected by both sides and there should be no unilateral attempt to alter the status quo.

“It is clear from Chinese actions that there is difference between what is being said and being done,” Singh added. He said it was clear from the actions at the south bank of the Pangong lake but the Indian Army had dealt with the attempts effectively. Chinese actions reflect a “disregard” for bilateral pacts, he added.

These pacts have detailed norms to deal with face-offs. The violent conduct of Chinese forces is a violation of all norms, Singh said. “The Chinese side has accumulated a large number of troops and ammunition.Our forces have also done appropriate counter-deployments. The House should be assured that our forces are capable of dealing with this challenge. Amid Covid-19, there has been a fast deployment of our forces. That is also because the government has focused on development of border infrastructure,” the defence minister said.

In the interest of the country, whatever tough steps need to be taken, will be taken, the defence minister said. Singh said the aggressive demeanour and amassing of troops on the border are issues which he had raised with his Chinese counterpart in Moscow.

“It is true we are passing through a challenging phase in Ladakh. But also rest assured that our forces are capable of dealing with it,” he said.

Emphasising that India believed that it was best to deal with differences peacefully, Singh said that it is always possible for one to start a war but not easy to end it. Pointing to the nation’s resolve in defending itself, Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself gone to Ladakh to encourage the jawans.

Any serious situation along LAC will impact India-China bilateral ties: Rajnath Singh

NEW DELHI, Sept 15: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday warned that any serious situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh is bound to impact the bilateral relations between India and China.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Singh said that during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, he has conveyed that Indian troops have always taken a responsible approach towards border management, but at the same time “there should be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The defence minister further said that the Chinese military had started increasing its presence in the region since April and was creating obstructions in the Indian forces’ patrolling.

China’s People’ Liberation Army (PLA) made attempts to transgress LAC in May, their attempts were spotted and foiled in time by the Indian army, Singh said in the lower house of the Parliament. He added that during the Galwan clash on June 15 in which 20 soldiers sacrificed their lives, the army inflicted heavy casualties on Chinese forces.

India and China have decided to resolve the issue peacefully as it is a “complex one” with both countries having different perceptions about the LAC, the minister said. “There are many agreements and protocols between both the countries to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border,” he added.

Singh, however, said that violent conduct of Chinese troops is a violation of all past agreements and our troops have done counter deployments in the area to safeguard borders.

“China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq kms in Ladakh. In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China,” the defence minister told the Lok Sabha.

Rajya Sabha passes Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020, to become Act soon

NEW DELHI, Sept 15: The Upper House of the Parliament, Rajya Sabha, on Tuesday passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020, which was tabled by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, after an hour-long discussion.
The Bill had already been cleared by the Lok Sabha in March this year.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to convert aviation agencies like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil aviation security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) into statutory bodies.

Under the new Act (after its implementation), any violation will attract heavy punishment, for example, violators will be punished up to two years in jail or fine up to Rs 10 lakhs or both. Carrying arms, ammunition, and explosives or other banned goods on board, and developing illegal construction around the airports will attract fines up to Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 1 crore.

During his opening remarks, Puri said in the house that, "India is third largest markets globally after the United States and China, and India is growing rapidly in aviation sectors, in terms of passengers growth in the last five years, passengers growth in terms of 2008-09 and 2013-14, it was 9 per cent and 2014-15 and 2018-20 it was 12.4 per cent passengers growth. At present around 661 aircraft in the sky and coming five years, it will increase with 1,200 aircraft in the Indian sky."

Opposition parties had opposed the Bill, and Congress Rajyasabha MP KC Venugopal had raised concern that "Many vacancies in the aviation industry are still vacant from many years, Air Traffic Control (ATC) staff is running very shortly and required the fulfilment. Meanwhile, Venugopal also stressed on the near-miss of the aircraft in the skies since many years."

Other Parliamentarians have also questioned Puri regarding the reason behind disinvestment in the national carrier Air India.

Prassana Acharya from Biju Janta Dal (BJD) asked the minister, "Why other private carriers are operating with full load capacity and Air India is running less capacity in terms of passengers load factors."

Meanwhile, a majority of the Rajya Sabha members praised the government's Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians from abroad during COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Members also praised the services of Air India and their staffs during the discussion in the House.

 

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