Leader of House in the Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal and Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Friday demanded that Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar take action against members who make false allegations and sensationalise issues without basis in the garb of asking questions.
The two ruling party members were reacting to what they called false allegations by opposition members Saket Gokhale of the Trinamool Congress and John Brittas of the CPI(M) on two different matters raised during the question hour.
Mr Gokhale had sought to know the reasons for many states rejecting dal (pulses) and other grains supplied under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).
Mr Brittas said that the elderly passengers were facing difficulties due to the "discontinuation" of concessions for senior citizens by the railways. He also said "there is a premium tatkal which has been brought in to fleece the passengers" and that sleeper and general compartments have been replaced with AC coaches, and asked if the railway minister "will review his stand?"
In response, Mr Vaishnaw said, "The honourable member could not ask a question. He has made some comments, which are very misleading comments and I fully, fully refute all the points that he has made."
The minister further said if Mr Brittas had any specific matter related to the particular question being discussed, he was most welcome to come forward and discuss.
Immediately, Mr Goyal stood up and said, "This is the second instance in one day that a member shoots and scoots. First I had the case of dal and now we have the case (pointing to Vaishnaw)...I want a ruling on what will happen to a member who makes false allegations or just sensationalises an issue to draw your attention to something which is not factual. If found so what action will be taken against such a member?"
Mr Vaishnaw also chipped in, saying "this is a matter of great importance. If any honourable member in the garb of asking the question is plainly making allegations which are baseless, absolutely false, have absolutely no direction then what should be the treatment, what should be the punishment to that particular honourable member?
In response, Mr Dhankhar said, "Let me take the House into confidence. I will look into all aspects."
Earlier during the question hour, Mr Gokhale said a lot of states, especially during COVID-19 and even after that, have rejected dal and other grains supplied under the PMGKAY.
"I would like to ask the minister what were the reasons for states rejecting foodgrains that have come under this yojana and what steps have been taken to ensure that high-quality food is now being supplied to different states under the scheme," he asked.
When the minister of state of the department concerned was about to respond, Mr Goyal, who is also the Cabinet Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, intervened and said, "I don't think there is any incident of rejection of dal because we don't supply dal under PMGKAY. There is no such incident that is reported to us."
He further said, "The states have rejected the foodgrains. In fact most states, they themselves are procuring the foodgrains and distributing it in their states. I think the honourable member may kindly place some specific incident where there is a rejection of dal or whatever foodgrain he is claiming to have been rejected."
If at all there is any misdemeanour at the fair price shop level, certainly the state governments should investigate that, Mr Goyal said while asserting that "no incident of FCI sending any material which has got rejected is currently available with us. If he gives us some specific details we can respond to it".
The chairman then asked Mr Gokhale to share with the Leader of the House if there is an instance.
In response, Mr Gokhale said, "Tamil Nadu is one example. What had happened was after the foodgrains were rejected, they went to NAFED, they instituted a committee and NAFED thereafter changed the procurement process wherein out of 100 per cent that is given by millers, 70 per cent is taken and the OTR (out-turn ratio) lower limit was removed."
He further said, "...I would request the honourable Leader of the House to kindly let the minister whose jurisdiction it is to respond because he does not seem to be aware of the fact."
To this, Mr Goyal said, "I strongly rebut what has been said by the honourable member.... I would like him to place that on record on the table of the House since he has made a very grave allegation against a very reputed organisation."
Mr Dhankhar responded by saying the "member (Gokhale) has put in a firm perspective and assertion which has been disputed by the Leader of the House. The honourable member may put it on the table of the House. We will examine it."
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