LS passes labour reforms, RS clears 7 bills as Opposition keeps away from Parliament over suspension of MPs
As per PTI the Monsoon Session of Parliament is likely to conclude tomorrow (23 September, Wednesday), eight days before it is scheduled to end, amid concerns of the spread of coronavirus among lawmakers.
As the Opposition kept away from Parliament over the suspension of eight MPs, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed three labour code bills, while the Rajya Sabha — still in uproar for the third consecutive day over the far bills row — witnessed one of its most productive days in its history with seven key bills being passed in a handful of hours.
Labour minister Santosh Gangwar, who moved the bills — the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Industrial Relations Code 2020 and the Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 — said the reforms being undertaken by the government will prove to be a “milestone for the welfare of workers”.
The Upper House saw most Opposition parties on Tuesday, including the Congress, Left parties, the TMC, the Samajwadi Party, and the NCP boycotting proceedings to protest the suspension of eight MPs, including TMC's Derek O'Brien and AAP's Sanjay Singh for the remainder of the Monsoon Session over their "unruly behaviour".
The drama over the suspended Rajya Sabha MPs spilled into the latter half of the day with various Opposition parties, including the Congress and the TMC, boycotting the Lower House in solidarity.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "You have compelled us to do so." Opposition parties, including Congress, TMC, BSP and TRS, walked out of the Lok Sabha.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla warned that members should not mention the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha. He said all references made by members would be removed from the records.
As per PTI, the Monsoon Session of Parliament is likely to conclude tomorrow (23 September, Wednesday), eight days before it is scheduled to end, amid concerns of the spread of coronavirus among lawmakers, sources said.
Rajya Sabha is likely to adjourn sine die after taking up five bills on Wednesday, the sources added.
'Labour bills to bring security to over 50 cr workers'
Labour minister Santosh Gangwar said the a historic day is unfolding as these codes would provide salary security, social security and proper environment at workplaces to 50 crore workers.
He claimed people who have walked out from the House did nothing for workers when they were in power.
The objective of these laws is to provide all kinds of facilities and healthy environment to workers, Gangwar said, adding that in the last six years, the government has taken several steps for employees such as an increase in maternity leave period to 26 weeks, allowing women to work in mines sector and pension scheme for small traders.
"With these steps, we had started work for labour reforms," he said.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, will consolidate and amend the laws regulating the occupational safety, health and working conditions of persons employed in an establishment and related matters.
The Industrial Relations Code, 2020, seeks to consolidate and amend the laws relating to trade unions, conditions of employment in industrial establishments or undertaking, investigation and settlement of industrial disputes.
The Code on Social Security, 2020, will amend and consolidate laws relating to social security with the goal to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organised sector or the unorganised sector.
While moving the bills on the codes for consideration and passage, the minister said the government has come out with the changes in the legislations after extensive consultations with state governments and other stakeholders.
He said about three-fourths of the recommendations of the Parliamentary standing committee, which scrutinised the codes, have been incorporated in the bills by the government.
Opposition boycotts RS, ends sit-in
Meanwhile, in the Upper House, the Opposition decided to boycott the remaining session of the Rajya Sabha, while the eight suspended MPs ended their overnight sit-in inside the Parliament House complex and said they would take their fight against the farm bills to the streets.
The suspended Rajya Sabha parliamentarians, who spent the night in the lawns near Mahatma Gandhi's statue in what several old-timers said was the first such overnight protest in the complex, got a surprise visitor in the morning: Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who came with tea and snacks.
Till late night, the protesting MPs raised slogans and sang songs while a host of Opposition leaders such as National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party's Jaya Bachchan and Congress' Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor visited them to express their support.
But their morning visitor did not receive the same enthusiastic response, said some of the protesting MPs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Harivansh's gesture was proof of his greatness, adding that his "inspiring and statesmanlike" conduct will make every democracy lover proud.
The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, the protesters said, came early with a posse of news cameras and was told by a senior MP to visit without the cameras and sit with them.
"Another senior MP also told him that while bringing tea was a nice gesture, he was still in the wrong in what he did. He was told he was the one who broke the rules," a protesting MP told PTI.
Several leaders said they did not accept the tea and snacks offered by the deputy chairman. "I did not have the tea brought by him," said AAP leader Sanjay Singh.
"Farmers have been cheated. We kept asking for proper voting and we were ignored completely. This is not the time to make friends but to fight for the rights of farmers, and we sat here the whole night to protest against the anti-farmer Bills," he added.
With the Opposition parties boycotting the rest of the session, there was no point in continuing with the dharna, which started on Monday afternoon and ended 24 hours later on Tuesday, said Congress MP Hussain.
"All the Opposition parties have boycotted the rest of the session (in Rajya Sabha), nobody is attending the session. They appealed to us to withdraw the dharma and since nobody is attending the session till the suspension is revoked, there is no point in continuing with the dharna," he told PTI.
His party colleague Rajeev Satav added that they will now hit the streets against the farm bills.
Harivansh announces 24-day fast
Expressing his deep anguish and pain at the Opposition members' "humiliating" conduct towards him, Harivansh on Tuesday announced a 24-hour fast, saying he hoped it will inspire a feeling of "self-purification" in them. Harivansh has been in the thick of things since the suspension drama unfolded.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had rejected a notice for a no-confidence motion against Harivansh as it was not in proper format and did not give a 14-day notice period.
Several Opposition parties, including AAP, TMC and the Left parties, led by the Congress walked out from the Rajya Sabha demanding that the suspension of the eight members be revoked. But the government is insisting on an apology first.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will consider revoking the suspension only after they apologise for their behaviour in the Upper House. Some parties like the NCP, SP, Shiv Sena and RJD also walked out of the House.
Before the walkout, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Opposition will boycott proceedings of the House till the suspension is revoked.
Rajya Sabha passes key bills
With most of the Opposition missing, Rajya Sabha had one of the most productive days in its history where in a matter of three and half hours, seven key bills including one that removes cereals, pulses and onion from the essential commodities list and another that abolishes penalty for certain offences by companies had been passed by the Upper House.
Only members from the ruling BJP and its ally JD-U and those of parties such as AIADMK, BJD, YSR-Congress and TDP, which have been extending support to the Modi government on various issues, participated in the debates on the bills. In most bills, the members' participation was sparse and the minister’s reply brief.
First, it passed a bill to declare five newly-established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutions of national importance.
Bill removing cereals, oils, onion & potato from essential commodities passed
The crucial Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and removes stockholding limits on them, was passed next.
This bill is part of the agriculture reform bills that the government is pushing to raise farm incomes. The bills passed on Sunday gave farmers the freedom to sell produce anywhere in the country and enter into forward contracts with companies.
Bill to bring cooperative banks under RBI passed
Rajya Sabha also passed amendments to the Bank Regulation Act to bring cooperative banks under the supervision of the RBI in a bid to protect the interest of depositors.
The bill, which comes in the backdrop of the PMC Bank scam, seeks to strengthen cooperative banks by increasing their professionalism, enabling access to capital, improving governance and ensuring sound banking through the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Replying to a short debate on the bill in the Rajya Sabha, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the last one-and-a-half to two years, "we came to know of so many cooperative banks or cooperative societies functioning as banks and calling themselves as banks falling into difficulties."
Thereafter the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which removes the penalty for certain offences, was passed. The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Rakash University Bill were passed in quick succession.
Thereafter the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 to relax time limit on compliance with tax laws, GST payment and filing in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as well as the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 replace emergency ordinances.
The sitting of the Rajya Sabha was extended by just over an hour beyond the scheduled time to allow the passage of the bills. The legislative business started at 10.29 am and ended at 2.03 pm: 214 minutes in all.
All the seven bills have already been passed by Lok Sabha and will now be sent to President Ram Nath Kovind. Once he gives his assent, they will become the law.
With inputs from PTI
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