Parliament proceedings | India is ‘Internet shutdown’ capital of world: Anand Sharma


Congress leader Anand Sharma on Friday described India as the “Internet shutdown” capital of the world. He attacked the government in the Rajya Sabha over the recent spate of the Net bans to black out coverage of the farmers agitation in the border areas of Delhi.

The country had seen seven Internet shutdowns in the New Year, five of which were at the farmers’ protest site in Delhi-NCR. “India is the largest democracy of the world. But today we have become the Internet shutdown capital of the world,” Mr. Sharma said during the motion of thanks debate.

Also read: Lawyers urge Chief Justice of India to restrain MHA from imposing further internet shutdown at Delhi borders

The constitutionality of the farm laws was questionable since agriculture figured only in the state list, giving the State the sole power to legislate on the subject, he stated. He questioned the delay by the Supreme Court in disposing off the petitions in this regard. “When constitutional matters demand urgent hearing and decisions, delays and kicking the bucket down the road create tension, distrust and conflict. Parliament should take notice of this,” he said. Petitions regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) were also pending before the apex court.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut slammed the government for branding farmers as anti-nationals and Khalistanis. He also criticised the heavy fortification of Delhi’s borders. “If you would have built such barricades at the international borders, as those put up at Delhi borders, China would not have dared to come into Indian territory,” he said.

Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) wanted to know what was stopping the Centre from repealing the farm laws if it was ready to put their operation in abeyance for 18 months. “You keep saying that you will give MSP [minimum support price] to farmers, what we don’t understand is then why not put it in writing,” he said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should intervene and listen to the farmers’ demands. He had written to the Prime Minister when the ordinances were brought in, but did not get any reply, he added.

Probe panel demand

Making a spirited intervention, Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa demanded the setting up of a committee headed by a Supreme Court judge to conduct an impartial probe within two months into the incidents on January 26 that led to violence.

He exhorted the Prime Minister to use the opportunity to become a statesman. “This is your second tenure as Prime Minister. Now is the time to become a statesman, to become a second Sardar Patel. Why don’t you come with us to meet the farmers and tell them that your government is repealing the laws,” he said.

Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress called the President’s address a “sarkari” speech. “It seems they have not read their own data. They lie regarding MSP. Modi ji never stops saying that the Congress did not increase MSP, [the] reality is, in the Congress time, the MSP increased by 219%. They only increased a little over 140%. The average growth rate of MSP in UPA-I was 11.10 % and in UPA-II 12.48 %. In Modi government’s time, it is only 5.53 %. Do not compare in rupees, compare in percentage terms,” he said.

“For how long can you survive taking the Congress’s name? What we did in 70 years is in front of public. You never stop talking, it is your habit what can we do? You have divided people and harassed farmers; January 26 was a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy to divide farmers,” he stated.

‘Hidden agenda’

Shiromani Akali Dal member Sardar Balwinder Singh Bhunder said farmers were aware of the hidden agenda behind the Bills. “You say the laws enable contract farming. But on the other hand, you have diluted [the] Essential Commodities Act and brought trade laws. A small or marginal farmer is pitted against a large corporate. How will he fight them… After one or two years, the government will have to exit, then corporates will have the monopoly, then there will no control on holding. You asked how will a farmer lose [his] land? When a big company comes it will dictate terms, there will be no control on price, farmer will be under debt, the farmer will lose land. Have you given guarantee of MSP in the law?”he stated.

The Rajya Sabha concluded the 15-hour long debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address on Friday. A total of 50 members from 24 parties spoke. Out of these, eight were from the BJP, five from the Congress and 27 from other parties. The government will reply on Monday.

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