In sessions marred by protests, the Rajya Sabha discussed the Union Budget, while the Lok Sabha passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Bill, 2019 and saw Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman replying to the House on the budget presented by her on 5 July.
The government is committed to the path of fiscal consolidation without compromising on public expenditure, Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, in a reply to a general discussion on the Union Budget 2019-20. On the Budget aim to make India a $5 trillion economy, she said the government is looking at enhancing investments in infrastructure, liberalisation in the foreign direct investment policy and lowering of corporate tax.
Protests from the Opposition, including members of Congress, DMK, TMC, NC and NCP, began on the issue of a hike in cess on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre each, with many lawmakers walking out of the House. The minister continued with her speech, highlighting that all data in the Budget is authentic. She also talked of the government's intention is to push infrastructure development and invest over Rs 100 lakh crore in the next five years.
Sitharaman also said that all schemes concerning the common have received increased budget allocations, adding that the government aims to provide piped water supply to all rural households by 2024. "We will move GST Council to reduce the GST rate on e-vehicles from 12 per cent to 5 per cent," she said.
The minister also emphasised on the Budget being favourable towards the farmers, with an increased Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all 22 commodities listed by the MS Swaminathan Committee report. Further addressing Opposition queries on the issue of NPAs, she said that the governnment is addressing them through four 'R' strategy - recognition of NPAs, recovery of bad loans, recapitalisation of public sector banks, and reforms.
In an occurrence that received appreciation from Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the NDIAC Bill, 2019 received support from the majority of the House. Prasad said the existing arbitration body has resolved 45 cases out of 55 in 25 years, with 10 cases still pending and only four being international arbitrations. Making a remark on long pending cases, Prasad said, "If a law minister makes it (ICADR) a private property, then what will happen?"
The proposed arbitration centre will be headed by a chairperson, who has been a judge of the Supreme Court or a judge of a high court or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the field. The minister also highlighted sections that talk of appeals in cases and time frame in which cases are to be disposed. He said it was to give an impression to the world that the government is firm on arbitration mechanism.
Among those who participated in the debate were Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who called the legislation’s intent commendable. He sought the conceptualisation of a National Arbritation Policy and strengthening of the Indian judicial system. BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi said, “Even Indian litigants are choosing Singapore, Hong Kong and London over Delhi for commercial disputes. They are taking away our business," Lekhi said.
The bill seeks to replace an ordinance issued in March this year by the previous government and provides for the setting up of an independent and autonomous body for institutional arbitration. Besides, it would acquire and transfer undertakings of the International Centre For Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) to the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) with effect from 2 March this year.
Congress MPs stormed the well of the Rajya Sabha and chanted slogans like "Loktantra ki Hatya Band Karo, Pradhan Mantri Jawab Do, Horse Trading Nahi Chalegi, Sarkari Gundagardi Nahi Chalegi and Kharid Farokht Band Karo", protesting the political crisis in Karnataka.
These protests impacted the House’s proceedings for the second day in a row, even as the discussion on the Budget continued. BJP’s Sunil Prabhu, AIADMK’s A Navneetha Krishnan and nominated member Narendra Jadhav participated in the debate. In his speech, Prabhu praised the Budget, terming it visionary, aimed at the masses and inclusive of the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. Jadhav termed the Budget as the finest saying the provisions in it will result in India becoming a $5 trillion economy.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram did not speak amid noisy scenes, while Samajwadi Party members staged a walk out saying they cannot discuss in the prevalent atmosphere. "We have agreed to continue the discussion on Budget tomorrow from 11 am. (Anand) Sharma has urged presence of the Finance Minister in the House during the debate. There is an understanding on this," Leader of the House Thawarchand Gehlot said. Deputy Leader of Opposition Anand Sharma said, "My party and Opposition are serious about the discussion on Budget. I requested the finance minister to be present in the House. Tomorrow, let there be an orderly debate and I request the Chair to adjourn the House for the day," he said.
The Speaker ordered three adjournments through the day. The final adjournment came shortly after 3 pm, with reconvening of the Upper House scheduled for 11 am on 11 July.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jul 10, 2019 22:54:44 IST