Key bills’ passage marks winter session of Parliament
The session (it was also the historic 250th one of the Rajya Sabha), set new records and discussed raging issues including the economic situation, air pollution and data privacy. The Lok Sabha, for the first time since 1972, got all 20 questions orally replied to by ministers on one day during the Question Hour.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 23:29 IST
The Narendra Modi government firmly pushed big-ticket reforms and legislation with deep social implications in the winter session of Parliament, taking advantage of a fragmented Opposition that couldn’t muster enough members to challenge the ruling coalition’s moves in the Rajya Sabha (where the BJP-led NDA doesn’t have the numbers).
The session (it was also the historic 250th one of the Rajya Sabha), set new records and discussed raging issues including the economic situation, air pollution and data privacy.
The BJP-led government’s business didn’t get affected despite losing the party’s most trusted ally, the Shiv Sena, in the aftermath of the Maharashtra election. Sena, which joined hands with Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress to form the government, however, didn’t oppose the controversial amendments to the citizenship law even as it remained a vocal critic of the Modi government’s other policies.
The government managed to pass The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill. It also brought the Industrial Relations Code Bill, The Personal Data Protection Bill and the Code on Social Security bill.
Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha performed well despite occasional disruptions. While the Lower House under Speaker Om Birla continued its new-found zeal to work overtime, the Rajya Sabha had its best Question Hour in 49 years with a daily average of 9.5 questions orally replied to on the floor of the House. The Upper House’s chairman Venkaiah Naidu described the session as one marked by “seriousness and brevity” and noted it was “perhaps the first time” when two consecutive sessions of the Rajya Sabha showed high productivity.
The Lok Sabha, for the first time since 1972, got all 20 questions orally replied to by ministers on one day during the Question Hour.
In the previous session, the first of the new Lok Sabha, there was 135% and 100% utilization of time in the Lower House and the Upper House respectively according to PRS Legislative Research. In the current session, the corresponding numbers are 115% and 99%.
Birla pointed out that he didn’t adjourn the House except for one occasion (the uproar over Lok Sabha member Pragya Thakur’s remarks) and said that in future, he would ask bureaucrats and experts to brief MPs about upcoming legislations.
Addressing a press conference after the winter session ended, Birla hoped that “by 2022, when we celebrate 75 years of Independence, our effort is to have a new session in a new building of Parliament.” He also said that as a new measure, the Lok Sabha Secretariat emailed as many as 3,700 video clips of speeches to respective members, which they can use in their constituencies.
While the focus of the parties remained on the amendments to the Citizenship Act, two ordinances—on banning e-cigarette and lowering corporate tax—were replaced by bills. The government also brought the Industrial Relations Code that effectively thwarts trade unions and a new law to handle emerging challenges to personal data protection. The Centre also amended the SPG act to cover only the PM and his (or her) family for 5 years. The amendments came after the Centre decided to withdraw the elite force’s cover for Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
In his valedictory remarks, Naidu maintained that the (Upper) House collectively demonstrated that “Parliamentary democracy is more about contestation of ideas and ideologies than confrontation which carries a tinge of conflict in its womb saying that this was born out by the high quality of debates on several occasions”.
Birla told reporters that debates and discussions, including those held during the British rule, up to 1858 have been digitised.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi indicated that the Union Budget for 2020-21 will be presented on February 1 and the Economic Survey is likely to be on January 31. When asked about the dates of the budget, Joshi said, “Tradition will continue,” indicating no change in the budget presentation. February 1 is a Saturday.