Sources: ₹ 130 Crore Loss From Government-Opposition Parliament Deadlock

Khevna.P.Shah, INN/Bangalore

@Shahkhevna1, @Infodeaofficial

The government has rejected opposition demands for a discussion and a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the Pegasus spying scandal, resulting in a stalemate.

More than ₹ 133 crore in taxpayer money has been lost due to parliament disruptions within the monsoon session, government sources said on Saturday, because of the deadlock between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and therefore the opposition over the Pegasus snooping scandal showed no signs of a thaw.

Since parliament convened on July 19, the opposition has been demanding a discussion and an independent inquiry led by a Supreme Court judge – serving or retired – into reports that Israeli spyware sold only to governments was wont to hack phones of opposition leaders, judges, activists, and even ministers.

The government has dismissed these demands, saying a press release read call at parliament by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav – one among the potential targets of the hacking – was sufficient. For days, the BJP has labored to label the snooping of the phones a “non-issue”.

A statement given out to the media via unnamed “government sources” on Saturday said the deadlock meant that the Lok Sabha only functioned for about 7 hours out of a possible 54, and therefore the Rajya Sabha worked for 11 hours out of a possible 53.

“So far Parliament has functioned only 18 hours out of possible 107 hours. Thus around 89 hours of working time are wasted. This means that the total loss to the taxpayers is More than ₹ 133 crores,” the statement said.

The statement comes four days after PM Modi attacked the Congress, accusing it of not allowing the monsoon session of parliament to function, and asked BJP MPs to “expose the party before the public and the media”.

Addressing a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party, he accused the Congress of deliberately spurning attempts at resolving an impasse that has seen little, if any, work in this session over demands for discussions on the Pegasus phone-hacking row, the farm laws, and other issues.

The opposition has said blocking the govt from running parliament – a tactic widely used and espoused by the BJP when it had been not in power – may be a democratic process to yield the govt into hearing its demands over significant national security and privacy row “bigger than Watergate”.

The NSO Group, which owns Pegasus, admits this is often spyware and is employed to hack phones, but says it does business only with governments and government agencies. The Israeli company says it doesn’t corroborate the list of potential targets reported by media companies around the world.

The Indian government has said there’s “no substance” to the reports of Pegasus getting used by it against opposition leaders, journalists et al. . NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the list of those who were supposedly targeted.

The opposition and therefore the government have blamed one another for the present deadlock.

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