Conversion, Sushma's Gita remarks create uproar in LS

The issues of conversion and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's statement that Gita should be declared as a national scripture today created uproar in Lok Sabha, forcing adjournment for an hour.

The House was adjourned for lunch by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan during Zero Hour, after Congress member Mohd Bashir attacked Swaraj saying her statement "tantamounts to undermining the secular foundations of our democracy," leading to vociferous protests from the treasury benches which was countered by opposition members.

Swaraj had last week said Gita should be declared a "national scripture", saying this respect has already been accorded to Gita when Prime Minister Modi gifted it to US President Barack Obama during his US visit in September.

Another Congress member Anto Antony spoke of the recent conversions in Agra and said minorities in the country were "under threat" from organisations closed to the ruling party at the Centre.

This too led to protests by BJP members with the Speaker asking him to raise the issue when a full-fledged discussion was taken up in the House.

Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD) demanded bestowing of 'Bharat Ratna' on Rani Gaidenlou Zeliang, the noted freedom fighter from Manipur, who was given the title of Rani (queen) by Jawaharlal Nehru for leading the struggle against British rule. She had spent over a decade in prison from where she was freed only after Independence.

Neiphiu Rio (Naga People's Front) asked the government to expedite the peace talks with the NSCN(I-M) to find an "honourable and permanent solution" to the seven-decade-old Naga problem, which he termed as "the mother of all insurgencies" in the northeast.

Observing that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had started the peace process, Rio, former Nagaland Chief Minister, said, "Even after 17 years of ceasefire and talks, a solution to the problem remains elusive."

CPI(M) member A Sampath wanted the government to take stern action against several private agencies who "fleeced" gullible youngsters in the name of training them and claiming to provide them cabin crew jobs in various airlines, including Air India.

He sought a thorough probe into these agencies and said government should come out with a list of authorised and accredited agencies to ensure that job-seekers do not fall prey to "fraudulent agencies".

Observing that the Postal Department has been facing "severe neglect" over the years, Chintamani Malviya (BJP) said the neglect had promoted private courier services to benefit.

Urging the government to fill up the large number of vacancies and modernise its infrastructure expeditiously, he said several major financial schemes affecting the rural poor like national rural employment guarantee programme were run through the department.

Radheshyam Biswas (AIUDF) said the fencing on Indo-Bangla border in Assam had left several families on the zero line on the other side of the fence.

"The gates are opened at 6 AM in the morning and closed at 5 PM when these people can come inside, work and return," he said and demanded that the government should rehabilitate them inside the border urgently to resolve their problems.

Raising the problems of tea garden workers in North Bengal, S S Ahluwalia (BJP) asked the government to implement laws relating to minimum wages and food security there, saying a large number of starvation deaths have taken place already as several tea gardens have closed down.

Prem Singh Chandumajra (Akali Dal) wanted special financial package for industrialisation in Punjab and setting up of special economic zones and agro-based industries there.
Mulapally Ramachandran (Cong) wanted the intervention of the External Affairs Ministry to get a Keralite school teacher released from Maldivian prison, saying he was being denied "freedom of communication" from jail which amounted to human rights violation.

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