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Parliament stalled for eighth successive day

Thursday December 01, 2011 07:01:35 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: It was the familiar sequence of protests leading to the adjournment of both houses of parliament for the eighth successive day Thursday with opposition MPs, and even some Trinamool Congress members, relentlessly pursuing their demand for a rollback of the decision permitting foreign investment in retail.

In fact, no substantive business has been transacted since the winter session of parliament began Nov 22. While the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned after protests over price rise and the demand for statehood for the Telangana region during the first four days,the next four days including Thursday were disurpted because of the protests over the FDI.

The Mullaperiyar dam issue in Kerala also triggered protests in the parliament Thursday as MPs from the state and those from Tamil Nadu shouted slogans.

Even though there were no signs of a breakthrough Friday, political circles feel that a compromise, paving the way for normalcy, may be worked out by next Wednesday, when parliament meets after a four-day extended weekend. Tuesday is a holiday for Muharram while Monday has been announced as a holiday.

"The government gets four days to work on the angry opposition parties and some United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies who are bitter over the decision on the FDI," a senior Congress leader told IANS.

The stalemate is costing the nation dear: Not only is the tax payers' money being wasted but key legislation is also awaiting approval from the two houses.

The 21-day winter session was scheduled to consider and pass 31 key bills, including the anti-graft Lokpal bill.

The government has so far refused to withdraw its Nov 24 cabinet decision to allow 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single-brand retail.

The decision will facilitate global brands like Wal-Mart to open shop in India in cities with a population of over one million.

While the government says the decision will lower consumer prices, give a better deal to farmers and create employment, the opposition says it will harm retail traders.

The opposition - both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties - has disrupted the proceedings since last Tuesday demanding a rollback of the FDI decision.

Despite the government's reluctance to do so, it may offer some minor concessions like raising the purchase cap from the small and medium units creating and a monitoring body to safeguard the interests of farmers and traders, sources said.

On Thursday, trouble erupted in the Lok Sabha soon after Speaker Meira Kumar made an obituary reference to former member Harish Kumar Gangawar of the Congress and read out a message on World AIDS Day. But that peace was short-lived.

Congress allies in the UPA were the first to target the government. Trinamool Congress MPs were seen standing in the aisles protesting against the FDI decision.

Buoyed by the cracks in the ruling combine, BJP members, some of them smiling, were also on their feet, raising slogans and demanding an adjournment motion on the issue.

Left members, ideologically opposed to any market reforms, also demanded that the policy be reversed.

There were other issues as well.

Congress members from Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh raised the decibel level, demanding a separate Telangana state.

MPs from Kerala also walked towards Meira Kumar's podium demanding a new dam downstream of the leaking Mullaperiyar dam. They said the leakage has threatened the safety of more than three million people in five districts of the state.

AIADMK members from Tamil Nadu were on the other side of the podium seeking implementation of the Supreme Court order on raising the storage level of the Mullaperiyar dam to 142 feet.

Meira Kumar tried to take up the Question Hour but the din led her to adjourn the house till noon. When the ruckus continued after the house met again, she adjourned it for the day.

There was similar chaos in the Rajya Sabha. As Chairman Hamid Ansari called for Question Hour, opposition MPs were already shouting slogans against the FDI decision in retailing.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra said an adjournment notice had already been served to suspend business and take up a discussion on the government's new policy.

Ansari adjourned the house till noon. As protests continued when the upper house re-assembled, Deputy Chaiman K. Rahman Khan adjourned the house till Friday.








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