Parliament Day 6: Slew of bills passed; Bofors scandal and mob lynchings dominate discussions
Parliament met on the sixth day of the Monsoon Session, where a slew of legislations was passed despite persistent disruptions
The Parliament met on the sixth day of the Monsoon Session on Monday, where a slew of legislations were passed despite persistent disruptions. While the Centre seemed keen on passing key bills, the Opposition, much like the initial days of the proceedings, took the BJP-led government to task on issues like mob lynching across India and demonetisation. This time, the BJP seemed to have fought back as well, with the ruling party members demanding a reopening of investigations into the Bofors scam. Here is an overview of all the legislations passed and issues raised in the two houses.
Uma Bharti says Ganga Act in the works, BJP leaders embarrasses government
Responding to questions related to cleaning of the river Ganga, water resources minister Uma Bharati said that the draft of the new law has been submitted to her ministry and discussions on it are underway.
A ruling BJP member, however, sought to embarrass the government in the House by saying that when plans are made "in the air" then the desired results cannot be achieved. The Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan made this comment when he was asked about 'ambitious projects' related to the development of river Ganga.
"If plans are formulated in the air, then you do not get the desired results," Balyan said, much to the amusement of Opposition members who took a swipe at the government by loudly chanting 'hawa mein' (in the air).
Reporting of expunged remarks to be referred to privileges committee
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien indicated that the distortion and reporting of expunged remarks of a Samajwadi Party MP by certain media houses may be referred to the privileges committee.
He made the remarks after KTS Tulsi (nominated) said that 50 lawmakers from 12 parties have signed and given a notice under rule 188 for breach of privilege by certain media houses for twisting and distorting of the remarks by Naresh Agarwal (SP).
"We welcome criticism, but not in a manner of distorting views and presenting them in a fashion that tantamount to defaming," the MP said, adding, "The matter should be referred to the privileges committee."
Last week, Agarwal had made controversial comments on certain Hindu gods which the Chair had expunged from records immediately and asked the media not to report them.
Maritime Admiralty Bill passed
The Parliament gave its nod to a bill that seeks to upgrade the law related to maritime claims, arrest and detention of ships and extends the jurisdiction of trials to various courts across the country. The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), 2017, seeks to repeal laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote.
Concerns raised over Rohingyas in Jammu and Ladakh
Veteran journalist and nominated member Swapan Dasgupta expressed concern over the reported influx of Rohingya refugees in Jammu and Ladakh saying it was a matter of national security.
Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in the Rajya Sabha, he said there was a "vicious" ethnic conflict and civil war going on in Myanmar, but since it was an internal affair of a friendly neighbouring country, "we refrain from commenting on it". "But it's curious and somewhat inexplicable as to why there should be so many Rohingyas who have migrated to Jammu and to Ladakh," he added.
He further said that "we have seen" evidence of Rohingya involvement in the blast in Bodh Gaya, and in October 2016, that one of the two militants killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir, turned out to be from Myanmar.
Israeli PM's reported remarks on Modi raised
The reported remarks of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the reasons prime minister Narendra Modi gave for skipping Palestine during his recent visit to the Jewish state was also raised in the House by the Congress.
Congress leader Anand Sharma gave a notice under rule 267 seeking suspension of listed business of the day to discuss the subject, said it was the prime minister's prerogative to visit any country, and he had delinked his visit to Israel with Palestine.
Modi visited Israel from 4 to 6 July but skipped Palestine, departing from the convention of Indian leaders visiting both countries on the same trip.
Sharma said an audio released by a reputed Israeli newspaper Haaretz stated that the prime minister, during a closed-door session with leaders from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, had told them that Modi chose the Jewish state to get technology and water and, in the process, ignored Palestine.
India, the Congress leader said, has always stood in solidarity with Palestine. As the Congress members sought a response from the government, Kurien said that he was not blocking the government from responding but at the same time, he cannot direct them to do so. "It is up to the government whether to respond or not," he said.
JD (U) leader's demonetisation dig
Coins of Rs 1, 2 and 10 are not being accepted by shopkeepers and even by banks in several parts of the country, a Janta Dal (United) member said in the Rajya Sabha. Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, Ali Anwar Ansari (JD-U) said that the people, especially the poor, were facing a lot of difficulty due to non-acceptability of these coins. "Some banks too are not taking those coins", even though they are issuing them, he said. In an apparent dig at the government's 8 November decision to scrap old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the JD(U) member added that the coins should be taken back in the "second phase of demonetisation".
NEET paper issues in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu raised
Members of the TMC and AIADMK in the Rajya Sabha expressed concern over the issue of different question papers being given to students attempting the common medical entrance examination in regional languages in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, Derek O'Brien (TMC) said till 2013, the English question paper for the medical entrance examination, NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test), used to be translated into regional languages.
But this year, those attempting NEET in Bengali or Tamil got question papers that were entirely different, he said, adding that 40,000 of the 56,000 students who wrote the exam in Bengali or Tamil had "disastrous" results. Reacting to the issue, health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said the issue was under examination of the government.
The government withdrew from the Rajya Sabha a bill to amend the Architects Act, 1972, which provides for registration of architects. The bill has been withdrawn as the government seeks to redraft it with further amendments to the act.
The logistics of the Polavaram project were also discussed. "Over one lakh people are affected by the Polavaram project and their rehabilitation was being envisaged," the government said. Balyan said that the estimated cost of the Polavaram irrigation project was Rs 16,010.45 crore at the 2010-11 price level and the Centre would sanction funds as per the 2014-15 cost estimates.
The Congress and the DMK also demanded that a bill aimed at bringing radical reforms in the transport sector should be referred to a Select Committee of the House for proper scrutiny. The Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2017, passed by the Lok Sabha last year, was listed in the legislative business for the Upper House during post-lunch session. However, it could not be taken up in the absence of transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari. The bill aims at bringing radical reforms in the transport sector for issues like heavier fines for traffic rules violation, improving the licensing system, protecting good Samaritans and checking bogus vehicle theft cases.
The fatal assault of murder convict Manjula Shetye inside Byculla jail of Mumbai by jail officials also figured in the Rajya Sabha, with members demanding setting up of a committee to go into the conditions of jails across the country.
BJP members demand to reopen of Bofors probe
Ruling BJP MPs demanded reopening of the investigation into the Bofors kickback scandal after a fresh media report suggested a financial quid pro quo before the gun deal was signed in March 1986.
Meenakshi Lekhi and Nishikant Dubey, both BJP members of the Lok Sabha, sought a probe since the year 2005 to establish whether illegal payments were made for buying the guns.
India had in March 1986 signed a deal to buy 410 155mm guns. It is alleged that bribes up to $10 million were paid for the deal.
Opposition demands discussion on cow vigilantes, six Congress MPs suspended for causing 'grave disorder'
Six Congress members were suspended from the Lok Sabha for five days by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for causing "grave disorder" by storming the Well, tearing papers and throwing them towards the Chair during their protests over the lynching issue.
Ordering their suspension amid noisy protests by Congress members and counter-slogans of "shame, shame" from the BJP benches, the Speaker said the conduct of Gaurav Gogoi, K Suresh, Adhir Rajan Chowdhury, Ranjeet Ranjan, Sushmita Dev and MK Raghavan was "highly unbecoming" and had undermined the Chair's dignity.
Members of the Congress and some other opposition parties were in the Well raising slogans against the government and protesting lynching incidents in the name of cow protection almost since the House assembled in the morning and took up the Question Hour.
However, after some time, only the Congress members remained in the Well and the ruckus continued during the Zero Hour in the afternoon, forcing an adjournment till 2.00 PM.
She pronounced her order as soon as the House reassembled at 2 pm and again adjourned it till 2.30 pm due to noisy protests by Congress members that followed. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was present in the House at that time.
When the House again met at 2.30 pm, Congress members were joined by the Left in protesting the suspension, prompting Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai to adjourn the House for the day.
India's trade deficit with China is a matter of concern: Nirmala Sitharaman
"Trade deficit with China is a matter of concern. We are discussing the issue with China for greater access for Indian products and services in the Chinese market," commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said during Question Hour.
Sitharaman said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised the issue with the Chinese authorities at the highest level and the government was working to reduce the trade deficit with China.
Arun Jaitley introduces bill to replace Banking Regulation Ordinance
A bill to authorise the Reserve Bank of India (RBI )to direct banking companies to resolve the problem of stressed assets was introduced in the Lok Sabha by finance minister Arun Jaitley.
The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017, seeks to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, which was promulgated in May this year.
The measure allows the RBI to initiate insolvency resolution process on specific stressed assets. The RBI would also be empowered to issue other directions for resolution, appoint or approve for appointment, authorities or committees to advise the banking companies for stressed asset resolution.
Moving on fast-track, the RBI had in June identified 12 large loan defaulters who account for 25 percent of the total bad loans in the banking sector. Actions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has already begun in certain cases, including Essar Steel, Bhushan Steel and Bhushan Power and Steel.
Bill to divert 2.5 percent proceeds of Central Road Fund to national waterways introduced
The government introduced a bill providing for allocation of about Rs 2,000 crore from Central Road Fund (CRF) for developing national waterways. The Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to further amend the Central Road Fund Act, 2000 was moved by Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan in absence of Gadkari.
The bill seeks to amend the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, to allocate 2.5 percent of the proceeds of CRF for development and maintenance of NWs and a reduction in the share provided for the development of national highways. CRF is made up of cess on petrol and high-speed diesel. The cess, at present, is at Rs 6 per litre.
Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire said that India should give a "befitting reply" to Pakistan for terror attacks in this country, like the recent one on Amarnath pilgrims in Kashmir. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, he said the killing of 8 pilgrims in the 10 July terror attack in Anantnag showed that there was a "security failure". He added that the government should ensure the safety and security of the Amarnath pilgrims.
With inputs from agencies.
Although officials relaxed the nation's one-child policy in 2016, allowing couples to have two children, it has failed to bring about a baby boom
It’s a stunning reversal of fortune for a politician who just over two years ago led the Conservatives to their biggest election victory in almost 40 years
The 65-year-old Italian had been seriously ill in hospital for more than two weeks due to a dysfunction in his immune system