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RS sees protests over promotion quota bill, Wal-Mart lobbying

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 16:00 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) Slogan-shouting members of the Samajwadi Party forced adjournment of the Rajya Sabha for the day Monday, minutes after Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy sought to move the bill to introduce quota in promotions.

BJP members, meanwhile, sought to raise the issue of multinational retail chain Wal-Mart reportedly spending Rs.125 crore on lobbying for allowing 51 percent foreign equity in retail trade, alleging that the move was passed after a bribe was received.

As soon as the house met at 2 p.m. following two earlier adjournments, SP members came near the chairman's podium and raised slogans against the bill seeking reservation in promotions.

"Reservation in promotions will not work," SP members said.

Narayanasamy stood up to urge the house to take up The Constitution (One Hundred Seventeenth Amendment) Bill, 2012 for consideration and passage.

The bill, a major demand of the Bahujan Samaj Party, seeks to provide reservations in promotions to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

However, Narayanasamy could not be heard in the din created in the house by SP members.

At the same time, Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal-United members were also on their feet demanding a statement from the prime minister on disclosures that Wal-Mart had spent Rs.125 crore on lobbying.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien urged SP members to return to their seats and oppose the bill if they so desired.

However, the SP members continued raising slogans near the podium.

Kurien said the members were indisciplined, but that made little difference.

"This is unbecoming (of members)," Kurien said, and adjourned the house till Tuesday.

Earlier, an uproar had erupted in the upper house of parliament over newspaper reports that Wal-Mart had lobbied in the US to open the way for foreign equity in retail in India.

Members of the opposition claimed the decision to open up retail trade to 51 percent foreign equity was taken after a bribe was paid.

BJP member Ravi Shankar Prasad raised the issue during zero hour, when issues of public importance are raised.

Even as Prasad's name was last in the list of zero hour mentions, it was taken up first after several opposition parties insisted it was important.

Members of the opposition demanded that the decision to open up retail trade to foreign equity be put on hold until an inquiry is conducted into the charges of lobbying.

"All major newspapers today have reports that Wal-Mart, in its lobbying disclosure report, has said Rs.125 crore was spent on lobbying," Prasad said.

"Lobbying is illegal in India, and if Wal-Mart has mentioned lobbying, it is bribery. To whom did they give the money? Government of India should tell. It raised a big question on multi-brand retail," he said.

Prasad, quoting the report, also said $3 million was spent in lobbying in India in 2012 alone.

"Government should put a halt to this decision, probe it and clarify," he said.

He was joined by members from other opposition parties, including the Left and Trinamool Congress.

JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari urged the chair to call the prime minister for a clarification.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla then said he would convey the matter to the minister concerned.

The angry opposition continued shouting and demanding a clarification, forcing Deputy Chairman Kurien to adjourn the upper house briefly for 10 minutes, and when the house met again till 2 p.m then, and finally ordering adjournment for the day.

Last week, the decision to allow FDI in retail was put to vote in both houses of parliament, and passed.

Opposition members had alleged foul play by government in arranging the numbers for the vote, with Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj saying the government misused CBI to get votes from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in its favour.



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