The Lok Sabha passed the first bill of the disruption-hit monsoon session of Parliament on Tuesday with Opposition benches virtually empty due to the suspension of 25 Congress MPs which has worsened a bitter stand-off with the government.
The lower House passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014 and also approved demands of excess grants for the Railways.
Since the session commenced on July 21, Parliament has transacted little business as an aggressive Congress-led Opposition repeatedly obstructed proceedings, demanding the resignations of top BJP leaders over the Lalit Modi controversy and the Vyapam scam.
The SC/ST bill adds new categories of actions to be treated as offences against SC/STs and amends existing norms while establishing exclusive special courts to try offences under the act.
Replying to a debate on the bill, social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the amendments would provide stronger punitive measures in cases of SC/ST atrocities. “Several steps have been taken by the NDA government in the last one year to prevent SC/ST atrocities and to rehabilitate them”.
Moving for the passage of the demands for excess grants totaling Rs. 2719 crore relating to the 2012-13 period, railways minister Suresh Prabhu said the matter related to the then UPA government and not to the NDA regime. The demands were later approved by a voice vote.
Prabhu also hit out at the Opposition, saying the NDA government did not “believe in politics”.
“We believe in the smooth functioning of Parliament. Everything is subservient to national interest. The Modi government believes in the highest principles of democratic functioning”, he said.
Referring to the ambitious bullet train plan, the railways minister said the project would not come at the expense of the services for the common man. “The Japan International Cooperation Agency has just submitted a feasibility report. We are evaluating the viability of the project”, he said.