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Indian parliament session ends in washout over currency move

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The month-long session of India’s parliament concluded Friday in a virtual washout owing to protests over the government’s move to withdraw high-value bank notes.

Parliament has failed to transact much business since the winter session began on November 16 because of a deadlock between the Bharatiya Janata Party government and the opposition over the manner in which a debate should be held on the subject.

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Although the government agreed to have a discussion, it was reluctant to allow the opposition demand for voting after the debate.

Bank notes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (7 and 15 dollars) ceased to be legal tender from midnight on November 8. The move has led to widespread chaos as people continue to line up at banks to get new currency.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, who also chairs the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, expressed his disappointment and asked all political parties to “introspect on the distinction between dissent, disruption and agitation.”

The winter session was the least productive parliamentary session in six years. According to PRS Legislative Research, the average productivity of both houses including the Lok Sabha, or lower house, was about 17 per cent, compared to the 98.5 per cent productivity in the previous monsoon session.

The least productive session was the 2010 winter session, with an average productivity of 6 per cent, the worst in almost 25 years.

The government listed 10 important bills to be discussed and passed, including the crucial tax reform legislation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), but only four bills were cleared.

India’s parliament is next scheduled to meet for the budget session in early February.

-dpa