Parliament Winter Session 2022 Highlights: Govt used Pegasus on phones says Congress MP, Amit Shah hits back – The Indian Express

Parliament Winter Session 2022 Highlights: As Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi hit out at the Centre over the use of spyware Pegasus during a discussion on drug abuse in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah shot back, asking the MP to give proof and not make baseless, politically-motivated allegations in the House. Gogoi had said that the government had tapped phones of politicians and journalists with Pegasus, but he wanted to know how it had used the spyware to catch drug mafia.
As the Opposition stepped up heat over China’s transgressions, demanding a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “We are not asking for military secrets… we just want to know what 16 rounds of talks with Chinese troops PLA achieved, and what PM Modi said to Chinese President Xi in Bali, if he at all did so.”
Earlier in the day, a united Opposition staged a protest at the Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex, led by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi. In a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday morning, Sonia asserted, “The government is being adamant and not holding a discussion on China’s transgressions. The public and the House aren’t aware of the real situation. Why is the government not sending out a financial reply to Chinese transgression?”
Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw heated exchanges between treasury benches and Trinamool Congress members who alleged that the Centre was discriminating against West Bengal by stopping grants under MGNREGS, as per a report by the PTI. 
Minister of State for Rural Development Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti said the central government does not discriminate against any state on grants provided under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and asked states to follow central rules for the scheme.
Rejecting claims made by TMC member Jawhar Sircar during question hour that the minister was giving a “one-sided” account of the development, Niranjan Jyoti said the member should have the courage to hear a political response to a political query. “The government does not discriminate against any state on MNREGA, but there are certain rules of the central government that every state has to follow.”
TMC members created a ruckus in the House over the minister’s answer, with Sircar alleging, “This is a very exaggerated one-side response. We can prove every word.” “Why are you killing MNREGA. From 1.17 lakh crore two years before, you have brought it to one lakh crore last year,” he asked. Responding to him, the minister said,  “From 2006 to 2014, West Bengal was provided Rs 14,985 crore and from 2014 till now West Bengal has been given Rs 94,185 crore under the scheme.” “We are not discriminating. All records are with us and the state government should follow central rules.” (PTI)
The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill-2022 which was moved for consideration and passage by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, earlier in the day. This bill consists of provisions for death penalty and life imprisonment for those convicted of maritime piracy. 
Jaishankar told the House, ‘We will have jurisdiction on foreign ships (which would indulge in piracy).’ About the members’ suggestions about having standard operating procedures (SOP) for better enforcement, he stated that the suggestion is well taken as it would help in its enforcement. He appreciated the members’ views that authorised persons (armed forces dealing with piracy) need to be given immunity. Read more.
While replying to a debate on Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill, 2022 in the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “detention of fishermen from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry & other states often by Sri Lanka and the detention of those from Gujarat by Pakistan remains a big concern for us.”
Government has no plans to reduce the age of consent for consensual relationships, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. In a written reply to a question whether the government is considering changing the age of consent for consensual relationships to 16 years from the present 18 years, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said the question “does not arise”.
According to a report by news agency PTI, Irani highlighted, “In case of commission of offence by child, Section 34 under POCSO Act already provides procedure in case of commission of offence by child and determination of age by Special Court.” “If any question arises in any proceeding before the Special Court whether a person is a child or not, such question shall be determined by the Special Court after satisfying itself about the age of such person and it shall record in writing its reasons for such determination,” she said.
On the rising number of child marriages in the past few years, according to the NCRB data, Irani said, “Higher reporting of cases does not necessarily reflect increase in the number of cases of child marriages, but it may be because of increased awareness among citizens to report such incidents due to initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), Women Helpline (181) and Childline (1098) implemented by the Ministry and better enforcement of law by states/Union Territories.” (PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday took up the Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill 2022, for its passage in the Rajya Sabha. The bill deals with special provisions for repressing piracy in international waters.
‘The Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 19. The bill was initially introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019,’ Jaishankar said. The Standing Committee on External Affairs 2019/20 then took it up for examination. ‘The committee examined the bill and made some useful recommendations and observations,’ EAM continued. The amendments were drafted and finalized with the concurrence of the Ministry of Law and Justice,’ he said. He further informed the house that out of the 18 recommendations of the standing committee, 14 of them have been incorporated suitably in the bill.
The bill serves as a legal instrument to combat piracy on territorial waters, exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and high seas. ‘This bill addresses the issue of the death penalty as an exceptional case and the quantum of punishments envisaged are in line with the gravity of offenses,’ the union minister said in the Upper House. 
Congress leader and former Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday, while speaking in the Lok Sabha said that the Centre must address issues on the LAC with China and provide answers to the people, according to an ANI report.
He said, “We want the government to take us into confidence, and the people of India into confidence about what they (Centre) are seeing on the border.” Claiming that there have been media reports about the India-China dispute over the past couple of years, he said, however, “no account has been given in a serious manner to the House.”
Applauding the courage of the Indian Army in the recent incident at Tawang, Tharoor said, “There was no question of criticizing the army, the question is about the political leadership of the country.”
– with inputs from ANI
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday, in a reply to a discussion on the Supplementary Demands for Grants, said that the wholesale inflation has fallen to a 21-month low.
Following the discussion, the Rajya Sabha returned the Supplementary Demands for Grants to the Lok Sabha, thus completing the process of authorising the government to spend an additional Rs 3.25 lakh crore in FY2022-23.
Sitharaman stressed the importance of the supplementary demand for grants, claiming it to be essential for food security, fertilizer requirements, and for providing support to the overall Indian economy.
She said the buoyancy in tax collection will help the government in meeting the additional expenditure being sought through the Supplementary Demands for Grants. The Lok Sabha then approved the Supplementary Demands for Grants, authorising the government to spend additional Rs 3.25 lakh crore in the 2022-23 fiscal.
(with inputs from PTI)
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha upheld India’s “targeted” response to Covid-19, claiming it to have assisted in India’s economic revival. She said, “Many large developed economies are facing recession because I think the way in which they handled Covid as different from the way in which we handled it in India…Targeted approach has kept us on the safe course of helping revival but not getting into recession.”
She further talked about the way in which funding is generated through CapEx undertaken by the government in the present economy. She said, “Private investment CapEx is happening in India because of favourable policies like PLI… We are keeping a good eye on inflation that is purely extraneous nowadays because of fuel and fertiliser prices.”
The Union Minister continued, “When CapEx is undertaken by the government, PLI is being offered, when start-ups are created and given funds through fund of funds (FOF) … jobs are being created then. The Periodic Labour Force Survey shows unemployment numbers are gradually coming down.”
While discussing drug abuse in the Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “We have mapped the drug network across the states. No matter how big the criminal is, in the next two years there’ll be a situation that they’ll be behind the bars.”
Further, Shah talked about borders falling under the purview of the Central government and their role in providing rights to the BSF to seize drugs from the enclosing area. “Borders are responsibility of Central govt, but when we give rights to BSF, it’s said that rights of states are being taken, now how will BSF work there? BSF seizes drugs but doesn’t have right to file case, those politicising this issue are promoting drug trafficking.
Reiterating the rights of the BSF to seize drugs at the borders, he added, “agencies can’t work without rights, they have to be given rights. We should show faith in our agencies.” 
Opposition parties on Wednesday staged a protest at the Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex, demanding a discussion over the border issue with China. The Opposition MPs have demanded a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent clash at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang. 

(PTI Photos)

(Express Photo by Liz Mathew)

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During a discussion on the drug menace in the country, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “Our government policy is very clear, those consuming drugs are victims, we should be sensitive towards them and give victims a conducive atmosphere for their rehabilitation. But those involved in drug trafficking should not be spared.”
“All the states and UTs have to together fight against the drug menace,” Union Minister Amit Shah said during a discussion on drug abuse in Lok Sabha.

“We need to stop the entry of drugs through borders, ports and airports. Revenue department, NCB and anti-narcotics agencies have to work against the menace being on the same page,” he added.
During a discussion on drug abuse in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “Our government has a zero-tolerance policy towards the issue of drugs. Those countries promoting terrorism in our country are using the profits from drugs for the same. The presence of this dirty money also gradually hollows our economy.”
During a discussion on drug abuse in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that he has told home ministers across states to not look at the any incident of drug seizure in isolation, but to investigate it till the border… where it came from.

He added that if the investigation goes beyond the borders of the country, states can seek help from the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said that in 2005, when BJP was in Opposition, it had raised the China border issue, and then-leader of the House, Pranab Mukherjee, and then-prime minisiter, Manmohan Singh, said that instead of discussing it in Parliament, we should deal with it internally as the issue is sensitive.

“After that, we didn’t raise the issue. Congress is forgetting that and is raising a sensitive issue which isn’t good. It was Congress who didn’t work on infrastructure at border areas,” Rijiju was quoted as saying by ANI.
During a discussion in Lok Sabha, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi hit out at the Centre saying, “Today, Rahul (Gandhi) ji is saying tthat firm action should be taken against China. The Centre is hiding behind the Army, when the matter should be raised in the House. All important matters concerning the nation should be discussed in the House. People choose the government not the Army, which is why governments are answerable.” Read Gogoi's speech here
The Upper House has been adjourned till 2 pm, following the Question Hour which saw discussions on various matters including the government’s spending on educational research and coordination between the NDRF and SDRF.
Opposition parties walked out of Lok Sabha Wednesday seeking a discussion on the border issue with China.

As soon as the House assembled for the Zero Hour, Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) members staged the walkout, followed by MPs from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Janata Dal (United).

Congress’ Leader of the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury urged Speaker Om Birla to allow a discussion on the India-China issue, saying it is the opposition’s right. “We have been demanding a discussion on the China issue since morning. Discussion is happening on TV, everywhere outside (the Parliament). Give an opportunity to the opposition to discuss it. It is our right,” he said.

Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the TMC also pressed for a discussion. The House later resumed discussion on the issue of drug menace. (PTI)
During a debate over drug abuse in Lok Sabha, Assam MP Gaurav Gogoi said, “I want to ask the Home Minister, how have you increased surveillance at airports and sea and land borders, where drugs enter the country from. You speak about border security, we want to know how you have strengthened border security forces,” he added.

“How are you using intelligence and surveillance? You snoop on us, tap on our phones with Pegasus. You spy on journalists with Pegasus. Through Pegasus, how many drug mafia have you caught?” Gogoi added.

Hitting back, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “He has made some serious allegations that his phone was tapped through Pegasus. Give proof, you can’t just say such things. Give House the proof… of journalists or politicians. This House is for serious discussion, not for baseless political allegations.”

Gogoi responded saying then the government should assert that it has not used Pegasus. Shah said, “You give proof. The Supreme Court has already decided.”
Congress MP P Chidambaram said that the Opposition has demanded a discussion over China, and it’s “not asking for military secrets”.

“We want a discussion on China, we aren’t asking for military secrets. What gives China the courage to make incursions into India while our response is purely reactive? Why incursions aren’t being prevented? We just want to know what is the level of preparedness, what 16 rounds of talks with Chinese troops PLA achieved, and what PM Modi said to Chinese President Xi in Bali, if he at all did so,” Chidambaram was quoted as saying by ANI.
Delhi | We just want to know what is the level of preparedness, what 16 rounds of talks with Chinese troops PLA achieved, what PM Modi said to Chinese Pres Xi in Bali, if he at all did so: Congress MP P Chidambaram
Parliamentarians in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (PTI Photo)
Congress MP from Gujarat Amee Yajnik said: “The moot question that arises is how come there is so much error in planning? I would like to know from the honourable finance minister was it devoid of any priorities or was there any misplaced focus when the monies were allocated?”
“Whatever it is or whatever it may be, it definitely indicates a gross miscalculation of expenditure,” Yajnik added.
She also called for gender budgeting to address concerns of women impacted by the Covid pandemic. “The women who have lost their jobs… it has become difficult for them to re-enter the workforce in comparison to men. This is also happening in the MGNREGA sector,” she said.
Stormy scenes were witnessed in Rajya Sabha Tuesday between members of the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress over the “dog” remark made by Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge against the BJP at a public meeting in Rajasthan a day earlier.
Leader of the House Piyush Goyal demanded an apology from Kharge but the Congress president stood his ground, leading to noisy scenes.
Amid slogan shouting by BJP members and repeated exhortations by the Chairman to Goyal to “control your people”, Kharge said his remarks were political and were made “outside the House” and there was no need to discuss that in the House.
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