Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and others stage a protest in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue against farm laws during the Budget Session of the Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and others stage a protest in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue against farm laws during the Budget Session of the Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
—ANI

New Delhi

Members of Parliament of the entire Opposition on Friday boycotted President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint session of Parliament and held a demonstration in front of the Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the Parliament House complex in support of the farmers agitating for repeal of the farm laws.

The Left MPs separately marched near Parliament demanding justice to the farmers. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri said the Pre­si­dent’s address was misleading when he claimed the th­r­ee farm laws were properly discussed while the fact is they were passed in a din, di­s­allowing any discussion and negating voting and suspending the MPs who sought a vote.

The ruling BJP dubbed the Opposition’s stand as “unfortunate”, asserting the President is above politics and he should not have been insulted in this manner.

Lok Sabha Congress group leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, however, asserted the boycott by 16 political parties was no insult to the President. “We will debate his speech when a motion of thanks on his address is taken up,” he said, noting that the biggest reason for boycott of the address was to stand with the farmers agitating for the rollback of the farm laws.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “President is above political differences. He’s the constitutional Head. Respecting him in his address is healthy practice of democracy. Unfortunate that the Opposition, especially the Congress who governed this country for 50 years, boycotted it. What tradition are they establishing?”

Aam Aadmi Party MPs, led by their Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh, raised slogans in support of the farmers from the entrance of the Central Hall when the President was speaking, after they were not allowed entry.

Govt punctures claim of 100 Kisan Rails

New Delhi: Much to the chagrin of President claiming over 100 Kisan Rails started in his address to Parliament, the Railway Ministry disclosed within hours the Indian Railways have so far operated the Kisan Rail services only on 18 routes and also furnished details of these routes.

While Kovind said 38,000 tonnes of foodgrains, fruits and vegetables were transported through the Kisan Rail, started throughout the country, helping chart a new course of new markets to the farmers, a Railway Ministry press note put the figure of 49,000 tonnes on the consignments so transported.

The press note added a subsidy of 50% in granted on the cost of transportation of fruits and vegetables through the Kisan Rail, a multi-commodity, multi-consignor/consignee, and multi loading/unloading, aimed at providing wider market to the farmer.

Budget Session: Entire Opposition boycotts President's address

No new announcements by President Ram Nath Kovind

New Delhi

President Kovind offered nothing new in his traditional address to the joint session of Parliament in the first sitting in the New Year as he rather opted to confine himself to list the Modi govt’s achievements and policies in the last year and condemned the violence in Delhi on the Republic Day. Focus of his address was on India's ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance).

His address sounded like the government has done all it had to do and now it is time for it to focus on implementation of various policies, programmes and projects.

The entire Opposition boycotted his address to express a solidarity with the farmers struggling on Delhi borders for over 9 weeks for repeal of the farm laws enacted in September, but some sneaked in to create repeated ruckus during his speech.

Punjab’s Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu raised slogans in the Central Hall while Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) MP Hanuman Beniwal, who withdrew support to the ruling NDA to back the farmers, flashed a placard and raised slogans against the government on the issue of the farm laws, while AAP MPs, led by Sanjay Singh, raised slogans from the Central Hall's entrance after the security blocked their entry.

FARMERS: The President lauded the farmers for strengthening self-reliance in agriculture and referred to various efforts of the government to improve the life of the farmer, especially small and marginal farmers owning just 1-2 hectares and constituting over 80% of 10 crore farmers in the country.

Listing out the government’s plethora of help to the farmers, Kovind referred to the three laws, describing them as important farm reforms and claiming Parliament approved them "after extensive consultation." He claimed benefits of the farm reforms have started reaching over 10 crore small farmers instantly. There was a mix-up in his figures as in a paragraph, he claimed over 10 crore farmers in the country and in another gave small farmers’ strength as 10 crore. Kovind asserted "discussions over the farm reforms (were held) in every part of the country for 2 decades and the demand for the forums at different fora were reflected during the deliberations in the House." Stressing the govt has been making efforts to dispel the misunderstanding created, he admitted the SC has stayed the implementation of the laws. "My government respects the decision of the apex court and shall abide by it."

To enhance the profitability of agriculture, the government is also placing emphasis on creating modern agricultural infrastructure by starting Rs1-lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund. He also referred to over 100 Kisan Rails started in 2020 to enable the farmers transport over 38,000 tonnes of food grains, fruits and vegetables.

TRICOLOUR’S INSULT: He did not spare a section of the agitating farmers for riots at Red Fort. He said the government always respected freedom of expression and holding of peaceful agitations in a democratic set, but "the recent acts of dishonouring the Tricolour and showing disrespect to the auspicious the R-Day are unfortunate.

About the Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh, he said the govt is “vigilant” and more forces have been deployed at the LAC to protect the sovereignty of the country.

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