Parliament houses adjourned, amid opposition uproar

Image source: The Business Standard Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya Tuesday said that the Centre asked no state to record fewer deaths or cases. However, it’s the Pegasus snooping controversy that has ruled the Lok Sabha proceedings on Tuesday, leading to continued disruptions and repeated adjournments of the House. Soon after the House assembled at 3 pm, the opposition members again started raising slogans on the Pegasus snooping issue, forcing the chair to adjourn the House for the day. The Lok Sabha has decided on meeting on Thursday after the Eid holiday. This was the second day of the Monsoon Session that the House could not transact any legislative business. Media reports on Sunday revealed a leaked list, featuring over 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”. The numbers reported in the database included over 40 Indian journalists, three major opposition figures, one constitutional authority, two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organizations, and many entrepreneurs. On Monday, the Opposition had disrupted the proceedings over various issues, including price rise and three farm laws. Earlier in the day, the House was adjourned twice after the Opposition created a ruckus over snooping and other issues. Amid the ruckus, Prime Minister rose to introduce new members of his Council of Ministers and said he thought there would be enthusiasm in Parliament as so many women, SCs and STs have become ministers. Mr Modi said, this time many persons from OBCs and agricultural communities have been given berths in the Council of ministers. Opposition members, including from the Congress and the TMC, started raising slogans and showing placards to attack the government on the snooping issue as soon as the House met for the day at 11 am. The proceedings lasted for barely five minutes. The same scene was witnessed when the House was reassembled at 2 pm. The issue of “snooping” using the Pegasus spyware has snowballed and triggered a massive political row in Parliament and outside as various parties are demanding a thorough investigation and sacking of Home Minister Amit Shah, while the government maintains that it had nothing to do with it. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh objected to the unruly behavior of the opposition. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BJP ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, as also former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa and poll strategist Prashant Kishor were among those whose phone numbers were listed as potential targets for hacking through the Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies, and international media consortium has reported. The Monsoon Session of Parliament will conclude on August 13. The Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini on Monday dismissed reports about surveillance on Indian ministers, Opposition politicians, and journalists. The hacking was allegedly done using Israeli company NSO Group’s spyware called Pegasus. “There is no substance whatsoever behind this sensationalism,” Vaishnaw said in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Parliament’s Monsoon Session. The clarification came as Monday’s sessions in both Houses saw protests from politicians of the Opposition against the rising fuel prices, the Pegasus hack media report, and the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will convene at 11 am on Tuesday. They were both adjourned on Monday amid protests by Opposition MPs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the newly inducted Union ministers to the Lok Sabha as he addressed the Lower House of Parliament. On July 7, as many as 43 leaders were inducted into the Cabinet, taking the number of members in the Union Council of Ministers to 78. The Monsoon Session of Parliament will conclude on August 13.

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