Sunday, July 14, 2024

Lok Sabha passes Delhi services bill

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Shah tears into opposition alliance

PNS|New Delhi

Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill to replace an ordinance promulgated for handling the transfers and postings of senior officers in the Delhi government amid a walkout by opposition parties.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was passed after a nearly four-hour-long debate which was replied to by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The ordinance was promulgated by the central government on May 19, a week after the Supreme Court handed over the control of services in Delhi excluding police, public order and land to the elected government, headed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The AAP-led Delhi government has been at loggerheads with the Centre over the control of Group-A and DANICS officers in the National Capital Territory government.

Responding to the debate on the bill, Shah made it clear that the central government has the power to make laws on Union territories and Delhi being a Union territory, the Centre enjoys full rights to make rules for it as well.

Launching a scathing attack on the opposition parties for joining hands against the central government’s move to bring the bill, Shah predicted that once the bill is passed, the opposition alliance will collapse.

“Today India is witnessing the double standard of the opposition. Bills of public interest are not important for them. All of them have gathered today so that a small party does not run away from their alliance.”

The home minister said the opposition parties were neither worried about democracy nor about the country.

“They just want to save their alliance. That is why all of them are sitting here and taking part in the discussion,” he said, reminding the opposition parties that they have been regularly protesting in the House stalling the proceedings ever since the Monsoon session started on July 20.

“Why were you absent when earlier bills were being passed? This bill is important because it is damaging your ally (AAP). But Kejriwal will say bye bye to you after the bill is passed,” he said, referring to Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal.

Shah also took a swipe at the opposition parties’ newly formed Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA, to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

He said the opposition parties were more interested in expanding their alliance and added, “You may find more allies but I can tell you Modi ji will return to power as prime minister again.”

“The whole country is watching those who are secretly helping the Delhi government in scams and corruption to gain their alliance,” he said.

He alleged that the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi has not been functioning within rules and it is not even convening assembly session regularly.

Even the cabinet meeting of the Delhi government is not convened regularly, he said.

“The bill is constitutionally valid and it is for the benefit of the people of Delhi,” he asserted.

Shah also asked the opposition parties to support the bill, saying it is for the welfare of the people of the national capital.

As the bill was being passed, members of several opposition parties walked out of the Lok Sabha as a mark of protest.

AAP member Sushil Kumar Rinku, who tore a copy of the bill and thew it towards the chair, was subsequently suspended by Speaker Om Birla for the remaining part of the Monsoon session for unruly behaviour.

During his address, Shah also said the government was ready for a discussion on the situation in violence-hit Manipur for as long as the opposition wants and that he would respond to it.

The home minister said Delhi is a Union Territory and from 1993 to 2015, there has not been any confrontation between the central government and the Delhi chief minister.

“Since 1993, a proper system was running in Delhi because no one had any intention to usurp the power, but in 2015 a government came in Delhi whose aim is not to serve but to quarrel…. If you want to serve Delhi, then there is nothing to fight about,” he said.

The Cabinet notes in Delhi were cleared by ministers and not by secretaries or government officials. “I never heard this happening anywhere,” he said.

Shah said that in 2022, only six cabinet meetings were held and out of these, three were held to clear the budget and one was convened to help a company.

“In 2023, only two cabinet meetings were held and both these were for approving the budget,” he said.

They call very few cabinet meetings, they have kept 13 permissions pending for institutions such as AIIMS, IIT-Delhi, an act was made in 2016 to bring 5G technology, which was accepted by all the states of the country but Delhi did not do it, Shah charged.

The Delhi Assembly is the only assembly in the country which does not prorogue, but from 2020 to 2023, it has been convened only for the budget session, Shah said.

He said that after the Supreme Court order on the services issue, the Delhi government was not interested on any public welfare programmes but of the vigilance department.

Shah said this was because it has sensitive files related to the Delhi excise policy scam, about the construction in the CM’s bungalow, ‘Sheesh Mahal’, a file related to Rs 90 crore spent on advertisements, a file about the feedback unit created by it.

The Delhi government spent crores of rupees to set up this independent intelligence department despite the fact that the police is not with the Delhi government, he said.

Earlier, initiating the debate on the bill, the home minister said the AAP was opposing the Delhi services bill with the sole intention of hiding its corruption and asked other opposition parties to think of people’s welfare and not of the new alliance.

“The problem with the bill is not about control of transfers and postings of officers, but to hide the truth of the bungalow worth crores by gaining control over vigilance and to hide the truth about the corruption that has taken place,” Shah said.

Shah was referring to the renovation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s bungalow which had triggered a war of words between the AAP and the BJP.

“It is my request to all the parties not to indulge in politics of supporting or opposing legislation just to win elections or gain the backing of some party. There are many ways to build new alliances. Bills and laws are for the benefit of the people. These should be supported or opposed keeping in mind the welfare of the people of Delhi,” Shah said.

“Don’t sacrifice the interests of the people for the sake of this alliance. The people are watching everything. You think that by entering into an alliance you will gain the trust of the people. You got the mandate, but you are sitting there (opposition) because of the manner in which the UPA ran the government for 10 years, indulged in corruption worth 12 lakh crore,” he said.

Opposing the bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury cited that Supreme Court judgment that empowered the Delhi government to make decisions regarding civil services in Delhi.

He claimed that if the bill was allowed to pass, then the Centre would overrule elected governments in other states and make decisions for them.

Chowdhury wondered what’s the point of electing MPs and MLAs if it is the bureaucrats who end up running the government. “Please don’t break the system of checks and balances by bringing such a bill,” he said.

A statutory resolution moved in Lok Sabha by the opposition against the Delhi services ordinance was defeated by voice vote.

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