Debates, Protests & Work… the session so far

Rajat Kain

File photo-PTI

File photo-PTI

The second leg of the Budget session is coming to a close. While Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die on Wednesday, Rajya Sabha will assemble for the last day of current session on Friday. The 239th session of the Parliament, which began on April 25, has thus far witnessed several passionate debates and tiff between the Opposition and the Treasury.

Besides, both the houses have so far transacted considerable business passing several key legislations and, in what could one of the highlights of the session, repealing more than 1,000 obsolete laws.

The Budget session took off on a stormy note with direct confrontation between the ruling BJP and principal opposition Congress over the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand.

Anticipating heat over the issue, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had called an all-party meet a day before session, which was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing hope for the productive session on the first day itself. The debates did happen but there were occasions where they got clouded under the din of tiff between the ruling combine and the opposition.

FILE: New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his cabinet colleagues addressing press before the resumption of the second part of the Budget session in the Parliament in New Delhi, April 25, 2016. Photo - PTI

FILE: New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his cabinet colleagues addressing press before the resumption of the second part of the Budget session in the Parliament in New Delhi, April 25, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Both the houses witnessed Congress protest on Uttarakhand matter. The principal opposition party was able to muster support from its friends in opposition, essentially the Left front and JD (U).

But soon, Modi government got an opportunity to turn the tables targeting the Congress party’s top leadership – Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh – over AgustaWestland chopper deal controversy. There too, the latter alleged of being targeted by the ruling party.

Speaking on the issue in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Union Defense minister Manohar Parrikar lent an assurance of fair and fast probe and that the guilty will be punished soon. But the two sides continued to exchange barbs on the matter outside the house too. Congress party even held a protest march against Modi government, where its top leadership courted arrest.

While the political exchange once again led to loss of time in the current session, the issue of drought in several parts across the country found echo in the discussion by the Parliamentarians. In fact, the notice demanding the same was made before the start of the session.

Debating on severe drought condition in Maharashtra, Karnataka and parts of Central India, MPs expressed deep concern and urged the government to take steps.

FILE: New Delhi: senior Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Anand Sharma and Mohan Prakash at Parliament House.  Photo - PTI

FILE: New Delhi: senior Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Anand Sharma and Mohan Prakash at Parliament House.
Photo – PTI

Replying to the discussion on drought, water-scarcity and inter-linking of rivers in Lok Sabha, Union Rural Development minister Birender Singh conceded that 1/4th of the country has been affected by drought and Rs. 1,360 crore had been allocated to states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka well before the drought.

The senior minister also apprised that 313 districts, 1,58,205 villages and 4,44,280 dwellings in the country have been hit by drought.

On the legislative front, latter part of the session has so far seen 10 bills getting passed by the two houses.

Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill was passed in Lok Sabha this week completing the second phase of this year’s budgetary exercise. The legislation was cleared in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote on Wednesday a day after it was passed by the lower house.

The Parliament also passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Bill, which seeks to create time-bound processes for insolvency resolution of companies and individuals. The legislation was approved by the Rajya Sabha by voice vote after a brief debate. The Lok Sabha had passed it on March 5.

Another important bill — The Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014, where hijacking will now attract death penalty, was passed in Lok Sabha by voice vote on May 9. It was cleared by the Upper House before.

The Parliament also passed two bills repealing 1053 outdated laws which had become redundant legislations. Moving the legislation, government got backing from the Opposition parties as well. While the bills were passed by the Upper house during this session, they were passed by Lok Sabha in May last year.