From farm laws repeal to Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019: Agenda set for stormy Winter Session of Parliament
The Opposition is all geared up to corner the government in Parliament, which is scheduled to commence on 29 November
The Winter Session of Parliament will begin on 29 November and it is likely to conclude on 23 December.
Ahead of Parliament proceedings beginning, news agency ANI reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend an all-party meeting on Sunday.
The Winter Session assumes significance in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the government's decision to repeal the three controversial farm laws last week.
Here's what’s in store and why this session is likely to be a stormy one.
What's in store
The recently withdrawn farm laws is set to be the focus of the session after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the surprise announcement on 19 November.
In his address to the nation, he had said that his government had failed to convince a section of farmers about the new farm laws and hence, the Centre would repeal them in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament. He had also appealed to the farmers to return to their homes after camping out at protest sites — the Singhu, Tikri border for almost a year.
However, farmers have refused to follow and said that they would only return homes after the laws were officially repealed in the House and a law on Minimum Support Price (MSP) was introduced.
According to an NDTV report, which cited sources, the government is preparing one Bill on the issue. The report added that the agriculture ministry is also working on whether the MSP issue should be addressed as guidelines or in a statutory form as the farmers have been demanding.
Besides the issue of the farm laws withdrawal, the Pegasus spyware controversy is also bound to find resonance in Parliament. The issue had rocked the Monsoon session, with the country witnessing unprecedented protests in the Lower and Upper House of Parliament.
The Centre is on the backfoot when it comes to the issue. The Supreme Court, in October, had appointed an independent expert technical committee to examine the Opposition’s charges that the government snooped on politicians, journalists and others with the help of the Israeli spyware, Pegasus.
Passing the order, the apex court had said, “The mere invocation of national security by the State does not render the Court a mute spectator.”
It had also stated, “Members of a democratic society have reasonable concerns about privacy. Citizens need to be protected from violation of privacy.”
If these two issues weren't enough to guarantee a stormy session, the data protection bill will also be presented in the upcoming session of Parliament after the Joint Committee of Parliament adopted it on Monday.
The bill has already created uproar with Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Gaurav Gogoi and Manish Tewari along with Trinamool Congress leaders Mahua Moitra and Derek O’Brien submitting their dissent notes on the bill.
Today, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 will adopt its report. I’m compelled to submit a detailed dissent note. But that should not detract from the democratic manner in which the Committee has functioned. Now, for the debate in Parliament. pic.twitter.com/tavBnF9y5B
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) November 22, 2021
For the Record submitting my Dissent Note on the Personal Data Protection bill to the Secritariat of the Committee after the Final Meeting of the Joint Committee on Data Protection.
We started in December 2019 and finished in November 2021 pic.twitter.com/xSjIUTLzql
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) November 22, 2021
Their main objection was directed at Section 35 of the Bill, which empowers the government to exempt federal agencies from the application of the data protection law in the interest of “sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign countries and public order”.
For those who don't know, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, seeking to provide for the protection of personal data of individuals and establish a Data Protection Authority for the same, was brought in Parliament in 2019 and was referred to the Joint Committee for further scrutiny on the demand of opposition members.
It has also been reported that the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham will raise the issue of abolishing the NEET exam in the winter session of Parliament.
The DMK is the third largest political party after the BJP and the Congress. Therefore, its MPs raising the issue of NEET in Parliament cannot be easily ignored by the government.
The DMK argues that the NEET exam leaves out bright students who are from rural backgrounds. It has been stressing that those who get proper entrance coaching classes are benefitting from the test.
Besides these issues, the Centre's decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force will also be a sticking point.
The Ministry of Home Affairs' decision in early October had invited stiff criticism from the Congress in Punjab and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. Punjab had said that the Centre's move could not be justified, while the TMC alleged that the “Central Government is violating the federal structure of the country”.
The Centre’s ordinances allowing directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to continue in their jobs for up to five years, if the government desires will also be an issue that the Opposition is going to take up in Parliament.
The TMC has already moved notices for statutory resolutions in the Rajya Sabha objecting to the ordinances by the government.
"Two brazen Ordinances extend ED and CBI Director terms from 2 to 5 years #Parliament Winter Session begins two weeks from now. Be rest assured, Opposition parties will do all it takes to stop India from turning into an elected autocracy," tweeted TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien.
Two brazen Ordinances extend ED and CBI Director terms from 2 to 5 years #Parliament Winter Session begins two weeks from now. Be rest assured, Opposition parties will do all it takes to stop India from turning into an elected autocracy
— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 15, 2021
Washed out Monsoon session
The previous Monsoon session washed out two days ahead of schedule with both Houses being disrupted time after time.
According to PRS Legislative Research data, the Monsoon Session was the third least productive Lok Sabha session of the last two decades, with a productivity of just 21 percent. Rajya Sabha logged a productivity of 28 percent, its eighth least productive Session since 1999.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had expressed anguish over the disruptions. Birla had said, “I share the people’s pain that their issues could not be discussed in the House.”
Naidu had broken down while speaking about the conduct of MPs, and said he had spent a sleepless night.
In fact, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on 21 November had said that he expected Parliament to function smoothly during the upcoming Winter Session.
Earlier this week, Birla had raised the issue of disruptions during parliamentary proceedings ahead of the Winter Session and said that a national-level discussion should be held with political parties to inculcate self-discipline among legislators.
We have to wait and watch if Om Birla’s wish comes true or we see another washed-out session.
With inputs from agencies
Filing of nominations for the bypoll has started, and 17 November is the last date for filing of nomination
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi informed that the winter session of Parliament will begin from 7 December and continue till 29th of the month