Almost six hours of peaceful proceedings on the OBC Bill made way for high drama in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday evening when a controversial legislation on insurance sector was taken up, with an angry Opposition protesting against it attempting to climb the reporters' table which was thwarted by marshals.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that women MPs were "insulted" by marshals during their protest inside the House, a charge denied by Leader of the House Piyush Goyal who demanded that a proper enquiry should be conducted into the actions of Opposition MPs.
Outside the House, NCP leader Sharad Pawar said, "in my 55 years of parliamentary career, I never saw the way the women MPs were attacked today (in Rajya Sabha). More than 40 men and women were brought into the House from outside. It is painful. It is an attack on democracy."
Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh tweeted, "Insurance Amendment Bill to privatise GIC was passed in RS with a large force of security personnel present. The government refused to send it to a Select Committee — a demand by all Opposition parties including those close to BJP. What happened this evening was worse than atrocious."
The day saw the Opposition pausing their protest demanding immediate discussion on the Pegasus issue for the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill 2021 and the House witnessed peaceful proceedings between 12 noon and 6 PM.
However, as Vice Chairperson Sasmit Patra took up the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill 2021, which seeks to enhance the role of private sector in public sector insurance companies, the Opposition erupted in protest and rushed to the Well of the House.
The Opposition alleges that the Bill aims to give control of the general insurance companies in the public sector to the private sector and wanted it to be scrutinised by a Rajya Sabha Select Committee before its passage, a demand rejected by the government.
As Patra called Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to move the Bill, CPI's Binoy Viswam attempted to climb the reporters' table in front of the Chair but was prevented by marshals. Patra went ahead with the Bill but as Viswam tried to climb the table, he first adjourned the House for 15 minutes.
When the House re-convened at 6:26 PM, there were multiple rings of marshals who prevented the MPs like Viswam, Syed Nasir Husain and Ripun Bora from reaching the table, which led to MPs pushing the marshals. Women MPs also tried to breach the marshals' wall. The Bill was then passed leading to another adjournment till 7:04 PM.
When the House re-convened, Kharge led an Opposition walk-out after saying that a human shield of marshals was deployed around the reporters' table and marshals were pushing MPs.
"There was a war-like atmosphere in the House. There were more marshals than MPs. The marshals manhandled our women members. Women MPs were insulted. Even within the Parliament women are not safe. It is unfortunate," he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi immediately countered the charges saying that some women marshals had complained that some tried to manhandle them.
"We have the mandate. We have to pass Bills. Let them go to people. On Tuesday, they climbed the table. That is highly condemnable. Strict action should be taken against those who have manhandled the marshals," Joshi said.
As the Opposition walked out, Goyal alleged that the Opposition was hell bent on not allowing the smooth functioning of the House from the beginning. "This was pre-planned to disrupt the House," he said.
Goyal demanded that the Opposition should apologise to the Chairman for insulting him. They should also apologise to the marshals, he added.