Pegasus row: Rs. 133 crore loss from 'non-functioning' of Parliament
As the Opposition's continued protests over the Pegasus snooping scandal have stalled the functioning of Parliament, reports said the impasse is causing massive loss to the public exchequer. The non-functioning of Parliament has reportedly caused over Rs. 133 crore losses in taxpayers' money. Notably, Parliament has been able to function for merely 18 hours out of the possible 107 hours so far.
Official sources told PTI that both the Houses have wasted considerable time in the ongoing Monsoon Session due to the ruckus. Around 89 hours of working time have been wasted since the commencement of this session on July 19. While the Lok Sabha has functioned for 13% of the scheduled time, the Rajya Sabha has functioned for nearly 21% of its scheduled time.
In terms of hours, the Rajya Sabha has been allowed to function for 11 hours out of a possible 53 hours. Further, the Lok Sabha has been allowed to function for merely seven hours instead of a possible 54 hours.
Amid the disruptions and low productivity in Parliament, both the Houses have managed to pass eight bills during this session. While the Lok Sabha has passed five bills in 44 minutes, the Rajya Sabha has managed to pass three bills in 72 minutes. Notably, the Rajya Sabha passed the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 in 40 minutes with just seven MPs present.
Since the starting of the Monsoon Session, the Opposition has been protesting over Pegasus snooping scandal, demanding a discussion on the issue in Parliament. The Opposition blames the Centre for the current impasse in Parliament as the Centre refuses to hold discussions on Pegasus. The Centre maintains that a statement read out by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw—one potential surveillance target—in Parliament should suffice.
Union Parliamentary Minister Prahlad Joshi Friday called the Pegasus case a "non-issue." He said the government is ready to discuss people-related issues. He also urged the Opposition to allow Parliament's functioning, calling the latter's behavior is "unfortunate." Earlier, Vaishnaw had refuted reports of any illegal surveillance. Meanwhile, BJP members are also stalling meetings of the Parliamentary IT panel on the matter.
Pegasus is highly-rated spyware—developed by the Israeli company NSO Group—which is only made available to vetted government clients. It also made headlines in 2019 for its use by various governments to track individuals. Earlier this month, a global consortium of media houses revealed the names of 50,000 potential surveillance targets including 300 Indians citizens such as journalists, Opposition leaders, ministers, activists, among others.