RS may discuss economy, pegasus next week

Rajya Sabha sources said the Upper House is likely to discuss both the issues next week following discussions the Chairman had with the floor leaders of parties. (PTI Photo)

Rajya Sabha is likely to discuss the status of economy and the controversial snooping episode involving Israeli spyware 'Pegasus' next week when the government is expected to face tough questions from the Opposition.

Two notices to discuss the "grave economic crisis facing India and how to improve the situation" have been submitted to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu by Congress and Trinamool Congress. 

The Trinamool notice was signed by Shiv Sena, DMK, RJD, AAP, MDMK and NCP among others. The Opposition wants to put the government on the mat over PSU disinvestments, unemployment and scrapping surveys that were unfavourable to the government.

Another issue that the leaders want to discuss was the recent controversy overuse of Pegasus software to breach WhatsApp of at least 121 activists and journalists with the Congress even claiming that its General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi was also a victim. The company's claim that it sells the software only to government agencies has raised questions and accusations that the government was illegally spying on people.

The Pegasus issue had seen high drama in Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology meeting when BJP MPs wanted to stall its discussion. However, casting vote by panel Chairman and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor led to the issue being taken by the committee.

Rajya Sabha sources said the Upper House is likely to discuss both the issues next week following discussions the Chairman had with the floor leaders of parties.

Giving details, a senior official said the productivity was 90.50% during the first week of the ongoing winter session which is the landmark 250th session of the Upper House.

"The House has availed 25 hours 54 minutes of the available time of 28 hours 37 minutes during the first five working days. While two hours 43 minutes of time has been lost due to forced adjournments for some time on two days, MPs sat for 1 hour 06 minutes beyond scheduled time resulting in a net loss of 1 hour 43 minutes," the official said.

Sources said the first week of Winter Session was very fruitful as it logged 90% productivity.

The week saw the longest discussion of a calling attention motion in 43 sessions in the past 13 years for three hours when it discussed Delhi pollution.

The House discussed the progress of relief to 1984 riot victims for over four hours during the 207th session in 2006 on the admission of Calling Attention Notice.

On Friday, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu warned MPs against disruption and said he would take strong action against those who defy the Chair.

 "Some people have developed a habit of disturbing the House by addressing their point of view and insisting it beyond a point and then stalling the House for a variety of reasons. And, then, the Chairman adjourns the House because I do not want the ugly scenes to be seen by the people of this august House. That is my weakness or my strength or my conviction," he said.

He also said MPs displaying placards, newspaper articles, air purifiers or masks are against rules and action has to be taken against such members in the future if anybody does like this.

In an apparent reference to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut's letter protesting against seat change, he also said some members have developed a new habit of writing to the Chairman. "The letter does not reach the Chairman and the Chairman has to read it in the newspapers. If you feel that it is a very important issue that should be brought to my notice, please write to me. I have no problem but you should wait for some time so that I receive it and go through it," he said.

"Some members have also developed the habit of making allegations against the Chair, thinking the Chair would come under pressure and then try to be positive to their demands. I am the last man and this House should be the last one to go by such pressure tactics being brought by media," he added. 

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