File photo of the Parliament. Photograph:( ANI )
The proceedings in the two Houses of Parliament were disrupted for the fourth straight day today, but both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha were united in promising to strive for women's rights on the International Women's Day.
As members in the Upper House sought an early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and the state assemblies, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan extended greetings to the people on the occasion and exhorted the women to move forward with renewed vigour and confidence.
Soon after it assembled for the day, the Rajya Sabha held an hour-long discussion on women's issues in which members, cutting across party lines, voiced concern over the growing incidents of crimes against women, and made a strong case for early passage of the women's quota bill.
It was a rare occasion in the Upper House, which has been experiencing a washout of its proceedings due to protests over various issues since Monday, as members put their political affiliations behind to speak unitedly on the women's cause.
But as soon as this debate was over, members of some opposition parties, the TDP and others, trooped into the Well, carrying placards and raising slogans protesting over various issues like the banking scam and the Cauvery river water dispute.
This provoked Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to make some angry remarks, which could not be heard in the din and then adjourning the House till 2 PM.
Earlier, the scenario was completely different as the House assembled at 11 AM and Naidu said the International Women's Day was being observed all over the world to celebrate the achievements of women as well as to renew the commitment to empowering them and ending gender biases.
"With women constituting about 50 per cent of our population, social, economic and political empowerment of women, including providing reservation in Parliament and state legislatures, has to be accorded top priority for the country to achieve rapid progress," Naidu said.
He stressed the need to renew focus on gender equality and women's safety, besides efforts to educate and empower them.
After his remarks, women MPs from different parties began discussion on the issue and pressed for early passage of the women's quota bill. The bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha and is pending approval of the Lok Sabha.
Veteran Congress leader Ambika Soni said a resolution should be passed by the House to support the legislation providing reservation to women in Parliament and assemblies.
The leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed concern over rising incidents of sexual assault against the girl child. "The government, together with the opposition, should create an atmosphere to ensure the safety of women," he said and agreed with the others on the early passage of the bill.
External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj said she favoured women's quota and continued to support it. Although women have excelled in many fields and entered areas so far dominated by men but were still "continued to face injustice, which is shameful", she said and called for a mass movement to usher in a change of the mindset of the people towards women.
Naidu also agreed to a suggestion by some members to have a woman member in the panel for Vice Chairman panel.
However, the amiable atmosphere in the House was short- lived as slogan-shouting members from the opposition Congress as well some from the AIADMK trooped into the Well. Amid disruptions, the House could not take up the Question Hour and the Chairman adjourned the proceedings till 1400 hours.
When the House reassembled, Minister of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan tabled the supplementary demands for grants for 2017-18.
Almost immediately thereafter, opposition members again stormed the Well raising slogans and displaying placards.
While the TDP was demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh, the AIADMK sought immediate setting up of Cauvery River Management Board. The Congress and Trinamool Congress members were demanding a discussion on the banking scam and a response from the Prime Minister on it.
Amid the din, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool Cong) wanted to raise a point of order but the members continued to raise slogans in the Well. The pandemonium led Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, who was in the Chair at that time, to adjourn the House for the day.
The Lok Sabha too failed to transact any legislative business for the fourth consecutive day, as members from several opposition parties, including NDA ally TDP, AIADMK and TMC, continued their protests on various issues.
However when the House met for the day and before the disruptions began, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan extended greetings on the International Women's Day and said women's empowerment was the need of the hour as well as a big challenge.
She emphasised the need to work together for the all-round development of women for a positive change. "If you consider man and woman as two wings of humanity, their empowerment is absolutely necessary for it to fly high," she said and also recited a few lines she has penned on women's empowerment.
Mahajan said, "If we all work for the all round development of women for a positive change, then I am sure that India will shine on the global stage."
But soon after she ended her speech, members of the TDP, AIADMK, TRS and TMC trooped into the Well, with many holding placards and raising slogans.
Amid the din, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal moved the Supplementary Demands for Grants seeking Parliament nod for additional cash spending of Rs 85,315 crore.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar urged the Speaker to continue with the listed business and said, "We are ready to discuss irregularities in the banking sector."
He also said that a debate under Rule 193, which does not entail voting, was listed on today's agenda on the alleged systemic irregularities in the banking sector over the years and its impact on Indian economy.
However, as the noisy protests continued, Mahajan adjourned the proceedings first till noon and thereafter for the entire day.
TDP leader and Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju was not present in the House even though it was the question day of his ministry. However, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha was present.
Disappointed over the Centre not granting special status to Andhra Pradesh, the TDP had late last night announced that the party's two ministers - Raju and YS Chowdary - would resign from the central government.