Four laws that promise to bring a sea change in the way Indians travel, shop and access government services are just round the corner.
Over the past week, President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to four legislations that have been in the works for up to a decade. Parliament passed them in the first half of the budget session, which ended on March 16.
The presidential assent marks the end of the legislative process and lobs the ball in the executive’s court. The government will have to decide when the laws come into force. So, here’s a look at the four laws that promise to touch your lives.
Product quality: Ensuring you are not taken for a ride
From gold to toothpaste, this law will ensure that you never lay your hands on a substandard product again.
The Bureau of Indian Standards Act will ensure that manufacturers and service providers adhere to the minimum quality standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Though the government hasn’t finalised the list of products and services to be covered under the mandatory certification regime, officials say it may run into thousands. Under the existing law, only around 140 products are covered.
Read also: Govt plans big overhaul of consumer laws
Once a standard is laid down for a product, it would apply to imported goods too. This means nobody can just import a product and palm it off to unsuspecting customers. Before it reaches the market, the importer would have to certify that it matches the norms laid down by the BIS.
Yes, this rule will apply to cheap Chinese products imported into the country too.
India’s rivers: Highways of the future
The National Waterways Act opens the possibility of using 111 rivers in India to ferry goods and passengers from one place to another. Shipping minister Nitin Gadkari promises it will not only be cheaper but safer too.
Only 3.5% of India’s freight traffic uses waterways, as compared to over 40% in China and Europe. If Gadkari succeeds in his plan, it could reduce the pressure on road transport vehicles and make the National Highways a lot safer.
Nearly every major river, including the Yamuna, has been classified as a National Waterway under this law. For instance, the Yamuna – from six km upstream of the Wazirabad Barrage in Delhi to the Sangam in Allahabad – will be National Waterway No 110.
Protecting home-buyers: A regulator to keep realty clean
In the works for nearly a decade, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act gives home-buyers a legal shield against unscrupulous buyers. The law requires developers and agents to register projects built on a plot larger than 500 sq metres or eight apartments with the regulator before its launch. This will ensure transparency in the project’s marketing.
The law also protects the interests of home-buyers by placing restrictions on the amount developers can divert from one project to another. Now, they will have to keep at least 70% of the money collected for a project in a separate account – and it can be used to make payments only for the same project. This should prevent the common practice of developers using money collected from one construction project to start new ones, instead of finishing the structure for which it was originally intended.
Builders will find themselves on a short leash as soon as the government enforces the law. State governments will have three months to appoint a senior official as an interim regulator, with whom real estate developers will have to register their ongoing projects. The states have been given six months to appoint a regular regulator and issue the rules.
And the ‘game-changer’: Aadhaar
If you don’t remember your 12-digit Aadhaar number, this may be a good time to start memorising it. Besides being your passport to accessing government benefits and services, it will be something with which the private sector can authenticate your identity.
The Aadhaar law – which finance minister Arun Jaitley calls a “game-changer” – promises to change the way India will be governed over the next few years. According to officials, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act will not only plug subsidy leakages worth thousands of crores of rupees but also help fight black money and check fraud.
If the government sticks to the script, the legislation could also have spin-off benefits such as making roads safer by weeding out people with fake or duplicate driving licences or making it easier for banks to give loans. The UIDAI has already issued over 99.6 crore Aadhaar numbers, and is set to cross the one-billion mark in April.