The Parliament took cognizance of the grim situation in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and decided to take up the matter in the Upper House because of the extraordinary circumstances that prevailed in the rain-battered state.
The discussion in the Rajya Sabha only began when it reconvened post 3.30 pm, after going through several adjournments through the day.
Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu initiated the discussion on the floods and the House, cutting across all party lines, sympathized with those who are suffering.
The members who spoke, including CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, DMK leader Kanimozhi and leader of the Congress in the House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, agreed that rescue and relief teams were finding it difficult to reach Chennai from outside as the airport had shut down because of heavy rains.
“I request the central government to press into action choppers to airdrop food in the affected areas,” said Yechury while talking about the devastation in the state.
The House unanimously agreed to contribute a lump sum to the flood relief fund.
“All of us are willing to contribute from MPLADS to provide relief to flood-affected Chennai. The amount will be decided in consultation with Chairman,” announced Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien.
Kanimozhi, who is a DMK MP from Tamil Nadu, spoke at length about the devastation that occurred in the state in the last few weeks.
“We need much more help from the central government immediately…and it is necessary for the central government to release more funds immediately,” the DMK leader said while giving a detailed description of the relief measures that are underway.
“The Centre should declare this (flood situation) as a national disaster,” she demanded.
She also called for an all-party Parliamentary delegation to visit the worst affected areas and report back to the Parliament.
JD(U) MP KC Tyagi and TMC MP Derek O’Brien raised the issue of how the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) needs to be “more effective”.
Meanwhile, during the day, before this discussion began, the Upper House was constantly disrupted and adjourned over a row on government’s statement on former Congress minister Kumari Selja’s claim that she was asked her caste when she visited the temple in Bet Dwarka in Gujarat.
On Monday, during a discussion on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution’, Kumari Selja had created a stir when she claimed that she was asked about her caste when she visited the temple in Gujarat in 2013.
On Wednesday morning, the Leader of the House Arun Jaitley disputed the Kumari Selja’s claim and alleged that she had written positive things and used “complimentary words” in the temple’s visitors’ book.
To this, Selja said she was not referring to the main Dwarka temple, but ‘Bet Dwarka’ temple.
“Please don’t try to mislead the House. That day, I had made it very clear that it was ‘Bet Dwarka’ and not the main Dwarka (temple). Please don’t do this, Leader of the House,” said the Congress leader on the floor of the House, even as other Congress members trooped into the Well, raising slogans which forced three adjournments.
To make matters worse, union minister Piyush Goyal alleged that the Congress leaders were creating “manufactured problems” and “manufactured discrimination”.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, then called for an amicable solution so that a discussion on the situation in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh due to floods could be conducted.
A meeting was called in the Dy Speaker’s room where the government and Opposition members, including Kumari Selja, buried the matter so that the House could then go on to discuss matters of immediate importance, like the rain and flood havoc in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
(With inputs from PTI)