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Relative calm as parliament debates motion of thanks (Parliament)

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Barring a brief adjournment of the Lok Sabha, relative calm prevailed in parliament Thursday as it got down to discussing the motion of thanks on the president’s address.

In the process, the opposition got an opportunity to roundly criticise the government on a variety of issues, ranging from terrorism to rising prices, to the Maoist menace, to foreign policy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the leader of the Rajya Sabha, sat through a considerable portion of the debate, in itself a rarity as he normally does not stay for more than an hour. He is likely to reply to the debate in the two houses Friday.

Resuming the debate in the Rajya Sabha, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M. Venkaiah Nadu called for evolving a clear-cut policy on tackling terrorism. ‘There should be a political and educative action plan against the Maoists,’ he added.

‘There is no harm in talking to them but they must abjure violence. Don’t talk in the air, be real,’ Naidu maintained.

He also questioned the logic behind last week’s talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.

‘In February, the prime minister accused Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terrorism. Now, we are talking to them. Has there been a change in the government’s policy?’ Naidu wondered.

Speaking after Naidu, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Sitaram Yechury virtually charged the government with taxing the poor to pay the rich and also made a forceful plea for narrowing the ‘hiatus’ between the ‘shining’ and ‘suffering’ India.

‘The budget (for 2010-11) has given concessions of Rs.26,000 crore to the corporate sector and those with high incomes. Yet, Rs.46,000 crore will be raised through indirect taxes, which affects the common man,’ Yechury maintained.

‘There is a shining India and there is a suffering India and the hiatus between them is growing. Let us not widen the hiatus and build a better India,’ he added.

In this context, he noted that 10 crore people had gone below the poverty line in the last 20 years, four crore of them in the last one year alone.

Calling for a ban on futures trading in essential commodities, he quoted from published figures to point out that the profits of operators in this sector had gone up 100 percent in the past year due to the rising prices.

‘In the case of sugar traders, their profits have gone up 341 percent,’ he added.

In the Lok Sabha, speakers Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United), Basudeb Acharya (CPI-M) and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Rashtriya Janata Dal) were critical of the government’s failure to bring down the prices of essential commodities and its inability to come to grips with the Maoists.

On his part, Yadav also criticised the treasury benches for poor attendance in the house during the debate.

‘Look at the treasury benches when the house is debating the motion of thanks on the president’s address,’ Yadav said as DMK leader T.K.S. Elangovan was invited by the chair to speak after 2 p.m.

Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy were among the few prominent ministers present in the house. The number of Congress members present was also low.

Yadav flayed the poor attendance on the day when Congress president Sonia Gandhi chastised MPs for poor attendance in parliament.

Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting in the morning, party presidenty Sonia Gandhi said: ‘Regular attendance (in parliament) is part of our basic duty and responsibility. Even to sit and listen to parliamentary proceedings is an education in itself. The time has come to take poor attendance on the part of members seriously.’

Before the debate resumed in the Lok Sabha, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) members clashed over the Uttar Pradesh administration’s treatment of opposition leaders.

The house was adjourned at 12.20 p.m. for 40 minutes as Congress MPs from Uttar Pradesh joined the Samajwadi Party to attack the Mayawati government.

Congress MP Jagadambika Pal alleged that Minister of State for Road and Transport R.P.N. Singh was not allowed to visit a place in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, where a bridge had been built under a centrally-sponsored scheme.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was reportedly set to inaugurate it.

When Samajwadi Party’s Shailendra Kumar said his party workers were cane-charged by police in Bareilly, BSP MPs led by Dharam Singh Chauhan protested. Amid the din, the house was adjourned till 1 p.m.

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