Parliament Monsoon Session: Triple talaq bill tabled in LS amid protests; Bihar encephalitis also discussed

The central government on Friday introduced a fresh triple talaq Bill in Lok Sabha amid protests from the Opposition members who claimed that it was violative of the Constitution.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 became the first legislation to be tabled in Parliament by the Narendra Modi dispensation in its second term, with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserting the legislation was a must for gender equality and justice. The Bill was introduced following a division of votes, with 186 members supporting and 74 opposing it. "This is not a question of religion but about justice to women," Prasad said while tabling the Bill in the Lower House of the Parliament.

Seeking to justify the need to bring in the legislation Prasad said there were 543 cases of triple talaq reported in the country. "This is a question of dignity of women and we are committed to (safeguard) it," he said.

However, as soon as Speaker Om Birla asked Prasad to move the Bill, several Opposition members rose in protest. Congress' Shashi Tharoor said he was opposed to triple talaq but was against this Bill as it conflates civil and criminal laws. He claimed it was a textbook example of class legislation as it was pointed at one community — Muslims — even though abandoning wives is not unique to it. Tharoor said there should be a law universally applicable to all in case of abandoning wives.

Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM took a dig at the BJP, saying it has so much affection for Muslim women but is opposed to rights of Hindu women to enter Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. The triple talaq Bill violates constitutional rights as it stipulates three-year jail term for guilty Muslim men while non-Muslim men get only one year of jail term for a similar offence, he said. NK Premchandran of the RSP also opposed the Bill.

With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha in May, the previous Bill had lapsed as it was pending in the Rajya Sabha.

Apart from that, a private member bill was to protect the customs of the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district was also presented the Lok Sabha by Kollam MP NK Premachandran.

The Lok Sabha also discusses the rising number of deaths due to extreme heatwave across the country. A total of 36 people have died due to heat-related ailments in the country this year till 9 June, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told the House. Citing data by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Choubey said 25 people died in 2018, 384 in 2017 and 1,111 in 2016 due to heat-related ailments.

 Parliament Monsoon Session: Triple talaq bill tabled in LS amid protests; Bihar encephalitis also discussed

File photo of the Parliament of India. Twitter @loksabhatv

Meanwhile, the death of more than 130 children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district due to encephalitis also figured in the discussion in the Parliament. In Rajya Sabha, Opposition parties demanded that the government make an urgent intervention and pay compensation to families.

In the Lok Sabha, BJP member from Bihar Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Friday urged the government to probe whether linking deaths of children due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in the state to consumption of litchis was part of a conspiracy to damage the brand name of the fruit.

"We are told that eating litchi by children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur may be the cause of AED. This is a conspiracy to damage the brand name of litchi... We are eating litchis since our childhood but we did not suffer from AES," Rudy said. The MP from Bihar's Saran district further said that due to some misinformation many people have stopped eating litchi and drinking litchi juice. "The government must probe if there is a conspiracy to harm the interest of Indian litchi farmers by linking the death of children due to AES in Muzaffarpur to the consumption of litchi," he said.

Participating in the debate, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said due to careless attitude of the state and union government, the situation in Bihar is not improving and poor kids are dying due to AES. Chowdhury also pointed out that the ratio of patients and doctors is lowest in Bihar.

Meanwhile, Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani informed the Lower House that over Rs 9,000 crore has been earmarked to address the issue of malnutrition in children, pregnant women, and adolescent girls. Irani said the government had launched POSHAN Abhiyaan on 18 December, 2017 for a three-year time frame commencing 2017-18 with an overall budget of Rs 9,046 crore. "To ensure a holistic approach, all 36 states and Union Territories and districts have been covered. The goals of POSHAN Abhiyaan are to achieve improvement in nutritional status of children from 0-6 years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers in a time-bound manner during three years with fixed targets," she said during the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha.

The Speaker nominated four BJP members to the panel of chairpersons who preside over the House in the absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. The members in the panel are Rama Devi, Kirit P Solanki, Rajendra Agarwal, and Meenakshi Lekhi.

Birla said, once leaders of other parties suggest names of their members for the panel, the strength of the committee would be increased as usually, ten members are part of the panel of chairpersons.

In the Upper House, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that government has evolved a new scheme to provide social security pension of Rs 3,000 per month to farmers above the age of 60 years. "The scheme provides for payment of a minimum fixed pension of Rs 3,000 per month to eligible farmers on attaining the age of 60 years. It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme, with an entry age of 18 to 40 years. The beneficiary can opt to become a member of the scheme by subscribing to a pension fund, managed by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC)," the minister said in a written reply.

Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukhlal Mandavia informed the Rajya Sabha that the price of 1,032 essential medicines have been capped by the government to help provide poor medicines at cheaper rates. Mandavia said the government is attempting to provide 700 medicines in Jan Aushadi Stores and a total of 20 truckloads of medicines are being supplied to such stores per day for providing medicines at cheaper rates to the poor. "A total of 526 formulations are now available at 90 percent less rates than the market after the government has taken this initiative of fixing trade margins," the minister said.

Meanwhile, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal dismissed contentions that India's exports were hit badly after the US has terminated its Preferential Trade Treatment or GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) to India from 5 June. Goyal told the Rajya Sabha that India is well placed to handle the "crossfire" resulting from the global trade war on the strength of the country's economy.

The minister said irrespective of the world trade situation, India is looking at ways to "encash' opportunities to further exports. "I would like to submit that the total impact of GSP is under $250-269 million in a year and for a country of size and strength of India, I can assure members (of the House) that it will not have any significant impact. India can handle the situation," he said when asked if India was discussing the issue with the US.

"Some of the demands that were raised on India were such that India could not yield. I think national sovereignty and national interest is paramount," he said when asked if the government would initiate further negotiations in this regard with the US. He further said India will continue to negotiate with all countries, including the US, but it will not be at the cost of sovereignty.

On the contrary, Goyal said India has increased its exports significantly during the last fiscal and in the current year also, the outward shipments are showing increasing trends. He further said India has fortified its foreign exchange reserves and the government is taking pro-active measures to promote exports.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2019 18:49:32 IST