Parliament's Monsoon Session ends prematurely; LS, RS rush key farm, labour bills; Oppn boycotts Upper House

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned with the Opposition still fuming over the events that led to suspension of eight MPs.

FP Staff September 23, 2020 22:36:45 IST
Parliament's Monsoon Session ends prematurely; LS, RS rush key farm, labour bills; Oppn boycotts Upper House

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die on Wednesday, bringing the Monsoon Session of Parliament to an end eight days ahead of schedule.

The session started on 14 September amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a first, the two Houses met at different times in a day to ensure social distancing norms against the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Speaker Om Birla adjourned the Lower House sine die after the passage of the Major Port Authorities Bill.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present when the House was adjourned.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned with the Opposition still fuming over the events that led to suspension of eight MPs.

Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 passed in LS

Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill that seeks to provide greater autonomy in decision-making to 12 major ports in the country and professionalise their governance by setting up boards. The Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020, seeks to repeal the Major Port Trusts Act of 1963.

The bill aims to provide for regulation, operation and planning of major ports in India and to vest the administration, control and management of such ports upon the boards of major port authorities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, be taken into consideration.

"This would enable our ports to become world class and enable board to take decision on their own," shipping minister Mansukh Mandaviya said while relying to debate on the bill.

In terms of volume, 70 percent of cargo movement is through ports while 90 percent in value terms. Replying to concerns raised by opposition, the minister said interest of all employees and pensioners would be safeguarded.

Rajya Sabha passes key bills without Opposition

Rajya Sabha passed 15 bills in the last two sittings with Opposition parties boycotting the proceedings to protest the suspension of eight members on Monday for their "unruly" behaviour in the House during the passage of two key farm bills.

The Upper House today passed The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, The Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020, the three labour codes, and the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill.

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, expressing regret at the Opposition's absence, said while it is "extremely unpalatable" when bills are passed amid a boycott of proceedings by some sections of the House, not taking up legislative work in such a situation may legitimise their action as an "instrument of blocking legislation".

Naidu said the House had to hold 18 sittings but it held only 10.

"We have to conclude this session eight sittings ahead of the scheduled 18 sittings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge humankind across the globe even after nine months of its outbreak," he said.

The Chairman also said that for the first time in the history of Upper House, a notice of motion for removal of the Deputy Chairman has been given, which was rejected by him.

Meanwhile, various Opposition parties boycotted the proceedings and took out a silent protest march in the Parliament complex against the contentious farm Bills passed recently.

The protesting MPs carried placards with messages such as "Save Farmers, Save Workers, Save Democracy" during their march from the Mahatma Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar statue on the premises. They also stood before Gandhi's statue in a line.

Members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPI-M, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Samajwadi Party and the NCP participated in the protest.

"All MPs of the Congress and like-minded parties are marching from Gandhi statue to Ambedkar statue in Parliament protesting the anti-farmers, anti-workers Bills that have been rubberstamped in Parliament in the most undemocratic manner by the Modi government," Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet.

Opposition members earlier held a meeting in the chamber of Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, to formulate their further strategy against the farm Bills. Various Opposition parties have protested the passage of the Farm Bills in Parliament and have boycotted the proceedings of both Houses.

Parliament approves key labour bills

The Upper House on Wednesday approved three key labour reform bills that will remove impediments for winding up of companies and allow firing of staff without government permission in firms with up to 300 workers.

The three codes were passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday and these will now be sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent.

Replying to the debate on the three labour reforms bills, labour minister Santosh Gangwar said, "The purpose of labour reforms is to provide a transparent system to suit the changed business environment."

The minister also told the House that as many as 16 states have already increased the threshold for closure, lay off and retrenchment in firms with up to 300 workers without government permission.

He maintained that it is not good for employment generation to keep the threshold low at 100 because it discourages employers to recruit more workers than this and they deliberately keep their workers' strength below it.

The minister was of the view that the increase in the threshold would result in job creation and encourage employers to hire.

He said these bills would safeguard the interest of workers and provide universal social security to workers by expanding the ambit of Employees' Provident Fund Organisation and Employees' State Corporation of India.

He also said that there would a social security fund to cover around 40 crore unorganised sector workers.

Over 29 labour laws have been merged into four codes and one (Code on Wages Bill, 2019) of them has already been passed, according to the minister.

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 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.

The Code on Wages 2019 was passed by Parliament last year. The passage of the remaining three codes by Parliament completes government efforts to reform labour laws in the country.

RS passes 24 bills, introduces 6; total productivity at 57%

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said the Rajya Sabha session is being concluded ahead of its planned session. In the 10 sittings, he noted that 25 Bills were passed and 6 bills introduced, with 3.15 hours lost due to disruptions in this session.

A total of 57 percent of the total functional time of the House was spent on government legislative business. He further said that the high productivity of the previous sessions continued this time too.

Though the session has been satisfactory in terms of productivity, there were some areas of concern. Naidu made an appeal to all members, "from the depth of his heart", to ensure that such unruly behaviour is not repeated.

"To protest is the right of the Opposition. Any member, for that matter. But how should it be done? The floor of the House is the most effective way, and not through boycott," says Naidu. He also called Sunday's incidents as "unfortunate."

With inputs from PTI

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