Stormy session marks Indian Parliament’s last session before 2014 elections

Updated 06 February 2014

Stormy session marks Indian Parliament’s last session before 2014 elections

NEW DELHI: Congress party hopes of pushing through new laws to tackle corruption stalled on Wednesday when the Indian Parliament’s last session before a general election was adjourned amid rowdy scenes over the proposed creation of a new state.
The session, which will go through to Feb. 21, is seen as a final chance for Congress, which leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, to convince voters it is taking action on graft and to showcase leader Rahul Gandhi.
After 10 years in power, its popularity has sagged in large part over a series of graft scandals as well as its inability to halt a slide in the economy.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calls it a lame duck government that is merely making a last-ditch attempt to shore up support. It should leave decisions to the next government, BJP leaders say.
On the eve of Parliament’s reopening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to all parties to help push through legislation. But Finance Minister P. Chidambaram acknowledged that might be a forlorn hope.
“I doubt whether it will pass any law. We’ve to go through the ritual of attending Parliament every day and coming back empty handed,” Chidambaram said in a speech to students.
Congress will try to push through 39 bills, including six anti-corruption bills, to address public anger over graft. They address issues such as protection for whistleblowers and corruption in the judiciary. It will also try to pass an interim budget expected to contain some pre-election sops for voters.
But shouting and protests over the creation of a new southern state derailed other matters when the session began, despite speaker Meira Kumar’s appeals for calm. The new state, Telangana, would be carved out of Andhra Pradesh and should generate vote-winning support for Congress.
Members of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh crowded around the rostrum of the chamber to denounce the proposed split, some carrying placards saying “Hail United Andhra Pradesh.”
The turn of events was hardly a surprise and the same might happen again on Thursday.
The Economic Times urged the opposition not to block the functioning of what it called the worst-performing House since independence from Britain in 1947.
“The opposition should also agree to cooperate in passing other important pieces of economic legislation cleared by various standing committees,” it said in an editorial.



The world’s largest democracy must hold a parliamentary election by May and the date is expected to be announced round about the close of the session.
The bills due to come up for debate cover issues that Gandhi, the fourth generation member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that leads Congress, has championed, including women’s empowerment and graft.
It may be too little, too late.
Opinion polls put the BJP, a conservative Hindu nationalist party spearheaded by Narendra Modi, ahead of Congress.
The newly formed Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party (AAP), which campaigns against corruption and took power in the capital Delhi in local elections in December, could draw voters away from either one while a number of smaller parties are discussing the formation of a “Third Front.”
Chandan Mitra, a BJP upper house member, said Parliament should not be rushed into passing bills without due scrutiny.
“There is no obligation on the part of the opposition to allow Mr Rahul Gandhi to get his agenda pushed though,” Mitra told Reuters before the session opened. “The government is trying to end this term on a high, but we don’t want to give them an easy ride.”
Also on the slate is a bill on reserving a bloc of parliamentary seats for women, reflecting the growing prominence of women’s issues after a series of sexual assaults.
Mitra said the interim budget was a priority.
“The interim budget will be passed as no one wants a shutdown,” he said.
Ajay Gudavarthy, a politics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said Congress hoped to use the session to present itself and Gandhi as forces that can fight corruption.
“The party is trying to build an image for Rahul Gandhi. He is a bit of a non-symbol now and that is a big problem,” he said.
Mandira Kala, head of research at PRS Legislative Research, said the corruption issue should not distract attention from the economy. Once a star performer, India’s growth has slowed in recent years and it is now weathering a storm in emerging markets.
“When you look at what the economy needs there are a lot of bills that are not being looked at,” said Kala, picking out a pending higher education bill and a mining bill as examples.”


India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

Updated 18 August 2019

India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

  • There were violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured
  • India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed

SRINAGAR: Indian authorities reimposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, on Sunday after violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured, two senior officials and eyewitnesses said.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a series of protests against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 revocation of the region’s autonomy. This followed an easing in curbs on movement on Saturday morning.
The state government has said that it has not imposed a curfew over the past two weeks, but on Sunday people were being turned back at multiple roadblocks set up in the city in the past few hours. Security forces at some roadblocks have told residents there is a curfew.
Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries after violent clashes broke out in the old city on Saturday night.
Representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar and the federal government in New Delhi did not immediately return calls asking about the latest clampdown or seeking an assessment of the number of injuries and clashes.
One of the official sources said that people pelted security forces with stones in around two dozen places across Srinagar. He said that the intensity of the stone pelting protests has increased over past few days.
The heavy overnight clashes took place mostly in Rainawari, Nowhetta and Gojwara areas of the old city where Indian troops fired tear smoke, chilly grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, eyewitnesses and officials said.
Chilly grenades contain very spicy chili pepper, and produce a major eye and skin irritant, as well as a pungent smell, when they are unleashed.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they aren’t supposed to talk to the media, said clashes also took place in other parts of the city including Soura, a hotbed of protests in the past two weeks.
A senior government official and hospital authorities at Srinagar’s main hospital said that at least 17 people came there with pellet injuries. They said 12 were discharged while five with grievous injuries were admitted.
The hospital officials and a police officer told Reuters that a 65-year-old man, Mohammad Ayub of Braripora, was admitted to the hospital after he had major breathing difficulties when tear gas and chilly grenades were fired in old city area on Saturday afternoon. He died in the hospital on Saturday night and has already been buried, they said.
Javed Ahmad, age 35 and from the wealthy Rajbagh area of Srinagar, was prevented from going to the old city early Sunday morning by paramilitary police at a barricade near the city center. “I had to visit my parents there. Troops had blocked the road with concertina wire. They asked me to go back as there was curfew in the area,” he said.
Telephone landlines were restored in parts of the city on Saturday after a 12-day blackout and the state government said most telephone exchanges in the region would start working by Sunday evening. Internet and cell phones remain blocked in Kashmir.
More than 500 political or community leaders and activists remained in detention, and some have been flown to prisons outside the state.
For 30 years in the part of Kashmir that it controls, India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.
The change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, and end the practice of reserving state government jobs for local residents.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said the measure is necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India and speed up its development.