Noisy protests in Lok Sabha over National Herald raid, ‘misuse’ of central agencies

Lok Sabha witnessed noisy scenes and abrupt adjournments amid protests by opposition members over the raid at National Herald newspaper premises in connection with a money laundering probe. In a rare gesture of protest, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also came to the well of the House briefly to join her party MPs who were protesting against the “misuse of central investigative agencies” against opposition leaders.

While members of the Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) stood in the Well of the House, shouting slogans such as “ED, Modi down down” and “Narendra Modi jab do”, members of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and some were shouting slogans. Standing near her seats in solidarity with the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Two Congress MPs, Kodikkunnil Suresh and Manickam Tagore gave notices of adjournment motion to discuss the issue. Tagore’s notice said the party wanted the House to discuss immediately the “attitude of the Central government misusing the Enforcement Directorate to suppress the Opposition party and its leaders, especially the activities of the ED to defame the values of the National Herald newspaper, and to direct the government to refrain from such activities”. Suresh said he wanted to discuss the “raids at the National Herald office in Delhi by the Enforcement Directorate” as it is “yet another instance of the vengeful politicization of Central agencies by the BJP-led NDA government in its attempt to throttle dissent and opposition voices by acting upon fake and trumped-up charges”.

When the House met, the opposition wanted its leaders to be allowed to raise the issue. When Speaker Om Birla began the Question Hour, Congress MPs stormed the well, raising slogans against the government. His main slogans were “ED, Modi down down” and “Narendra Modi reply”.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned first at 11.10 am till noon, and then again at 12.15pm till 2pm.

When the House met at noon, Congress MPs insisted that their leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury be allowed to raise the issue in the House. With Rajendra Agrawal (BJP), who was in the Chair, not granting permission to speak, the MPs began sloganeering. Sonia Gandhi was seen asking party leader Chowdhury to speak on certain issues. Congress members and DMK leader T R Baalu also urged Speaker Om Birla to allow Chowdhury to speak but the permission was not granted.

Amid the ruckus, DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran was seen persuading senior Congress leaders, including Shashi Tharoor and Karti P Chidambaram, to come to the well of the House. At this, Sonia Gandhi stood up and joined the protesters in the well and also asked Chidambaram to move to the front.

Rajendra Agrawal, who was in the Chair, allowed the laying of parliamentary papers on the table of the House and the introduction of the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill by Power Minister R K Singh. Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Ray opposed the introduction of the Bill, contending that the provisions were not sufficient to find alternative sources of energy and the Bill seeks to make the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) a top-heavy structure. “This Bill has nothing to improve the introduction of green hydrogen, green ammonia and other non-fossil fuels,” Ray said and urged the government to bring more comprehensive draft legislation.

Singh, however, introduced the Bill that also has provisions to establish carbon markets and empower state electricity regulatory commissions to make regulations for a smooth discharge of its functions. Singh tried to address the concerns raised by Ray, saying the Bill did not seek to turn BEE into a large body but only increase the members in the governing council to ensure participation of other departments in its functioning. “We are also introducing carbon markets. A person embracing renewable energy will earn credits which can be purchased by others. This will make financing the renewable energy projects easier,” Singh said.

According to the minister, the big residential buildings consume 24 percent of electricity and the Bill has provisions to make such buildings more energy efficient and sustainable. The Bill has provisions to slap penalties for non-compliance with the rules by industrial units or vessels, and on manufacturers if a vehicle fails to comply with the fuel consumption norms.

“With time, and in the context of the energy transition with special focus on the promotion of new and renewable energy and National Green Hydrogen Mission, a need arose to amend the said Act further to facilitate the achievement of ‘Panchamrit’ – as the five nectar elements presented by India at the Conference of the Parties-26 in Glasgow last year,” Singh said in the Statement of Objects and Reasons for the Bill.

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