Stormy Monsoon Session of Parliament sees Rajya Sabha pass 25 Bills over Opposition's protest, absence
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said in concluding remarks that the House’s productivity was 100.47 percent, while written replies were given to a total of 1,567 unstarred questions
The Parliament’s Monsoon Session concluded on Wednesday, eight days ahead of schedule, with 25 Bills being passed in 10 sittings even as the Opposition protested and boycotted Rajya Sabha proceedings over proposed farm legislations and suspension of MPs.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said in concluding remarks that the House’s productivity was 100.47 percent, while written replies were given to a total of 1,567 unstarred questions. Members raised issues of urgent public importance through 92 Zero Hours and 66 Special Mentions.
Amid an Opposition boycott, 15 Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the eight Bills passed on Wednesday alone were three contentious labour codes: The Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020, The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 and The Code On Social Security, 2020.
Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the government has allowed a single license for staffing firms to hire workers on contract across different locations instead of multiple licences needed earlier. It has increased the threshold limit of contractor employees from 20 to 50 under OSH Code while opening up hiring of contract workers in all areas will ease the compliance for employers.
The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 has raised the threshold on number employees needed in an organisation for retrenchment and closure of establishments without government approval to 300 from 100, significantly improving the ease of firing for employers. The Code on Social Security, 2020 intends to provide for universal social security to all workers, including the unorganised and the gig and platform workers. These together account for over 90 percent of India’s total workforce.
However, it was after the passage of The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 on Sunday that the Rajya Sabha plummeted into chaos, with the Opposition Benches registering their strong protest.
Following Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh’s refusal of requests seeking division of votes on the Bills and that they be referred to a Select Committee, members intensified their protests, trooping into the Well of the House, throwing the rule book at the Chair, tearing official papers and attempting to damage the mics. While the Opposition members moved a no-confidence motion against Singh, eight MPs were suspended on Monday for unruly behaviour.
Congress and other Opposition parties claimed the Bills will deal a “death knell to farming”.
The government assured that the Minimum Support Price system will not be done away with and the proposed legislations are not against agricultural mandis.
Under the provisions, farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act, also allowing them to trade their goods to a private player directly. Additionally, a national framework on farming agreements will empower farmers to engage with the market at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner.
Two days later, in a House sans Opposition, the Essential Commodities Bill, 2020 was also passed. It aims to remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes as essential goods and boost investment in the agricultural sector and will create more storage capacities to reduce the post-harvest loss of crops.
On the same day, the Upper House passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which declares five newly established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutes of national importance.
The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 amends the banking regulation act to bring cooperative banks under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and assumes importance in the backdrop of the PMC scam. The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 amends 48 sections of the Companies Act, 2013 with focus on decriminalisation and increasing the ease of living.
The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 aims to establish Gujarat Forensic Sciences University and Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences, New Delhi under one name called the National Forensic Sciences University in Gujarat.
The Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 seeks to upgrade Raksha Shakti University in Gujarat with its changed name and as an institute of national importance. The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 includes extension of deadlines for filing returns and for linking PAN and Aadhaar, tax benefits on donation made to the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES FUND) among other provisions.
On Wednesday, The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 was passed, which seeks to make it mandatory for office bearers of NGOs to provide their Aadhaar numbers at the time of registration, enable the Centre to allow an NGO or association to surrender its FCRA certificate, among other provisions.
Other proposed legislations that were passed are The Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020 and Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020.
Other important Bills that were passed include the The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020, that mandates a default on repayments from 25 March would not be considered for initiating insolvency proceedings for at least six months.
The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 ensures protection for healthcare workers.
Other Bills pertaining to the medical field were The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020, The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Two bills effecting a 30 percent reduction in the salaries of ministers and members of Parliament till March 2021 were also passed. The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020, passed on 15 September sought to transmute the three aviation regulatory bodies, including Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), into statutory bodies.
The Appropriation (No.3) Bill and The Appropriation (No.4) Bill, 2020 were returned without any discussion on the last day of the Session.
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