25 Bills Passed In The 3rd Shortest Rajya Sabha Session

25 Bills Passed In The 3rd Shortest Rajya Sabha Session

One of the shortest sessions of the Rajya Sabha turned out to be one of the most efficient as 25 bills were passed in the recent monsoon session. However, already in controversy over the removal of Question Hour, the session generated more heat in its course due to the passing of some notable bills.

Crux of the Matter

Short And ‘Efficient’ Session
The 252nd session of Rajya Sabha was adjourned on 23 September 2020, with the monsoon session starting on 14 September but ending early from the expected date of 1 October. Only 10 sittings occurred instead of the scheduled 18, with the growing rate of Covid-19 being cited as the reason for such an abrupt ending.

It was the 2nd shortest Rajya Sabha monsoon session as the 110th session of July 1979 and the 187th session of October 1999 had 6 six sittings each (both monsoon). Overall, it was the 3rd shortest session as it ranks behind the 111th session which had only 1 sitting on August 20, 1979, and the other 2 mentioned above. 25 bills were passed and 6 bills were introduced in this session, which registered 100.47% productivity. However, controversy occurred during this session due to the removal of the Question Hour as well as the passing of the Farm Bills.

Following are some of the major bills passed by Rajya Sabha:

Labour Bills
3 bills were passed under the group, which were:

  • The Industrial Relations Code, 2020
  • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH)
  • The Social Security Code, 2020

Following changes would be brought by the bills:

  • Firms with up to 300 workers would be allowed to dismiss staff without Government approval. Earlier, any firm with more than 100 workers had to seek permission from the Government to do so.
  • Employee Provident Fund Organisation benefits would be provided to firms with 20 or more workers as well as the self-employed people.
  • Unions would be required to provide 60 days’ notice prior to a strike.
  • Universal Social Security has been announced for both the “organised and unorganised” sectors, while a “Social Security Fund” would be set up for 40 crore workers from the unorganised sector.
  • Only 1 licence would be required under the OSH for hiring across different places instead of the earlier practice of requiring multiple licences.

Critics have claimed that the amendments are similar to the changes brought in Uttar Pradesh in May 2020, when the state suspended several labour laws including the Minimum Wages Act, the Maternity Benefit Act, the Payment of Bonus Act, etc for 3 years

Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • The Amendment brings co-operative banks under RBI supervision.
  • The aim of such a step is to prevent a crisis like the recent Punjab and Maharashtra (PMC) Co-operative Bank one.
  • 51% of members of the Board of Directors of co-operative banks are now required to have knowledge/experience in banking, law, economics, etc. RBI now has the authority to remove the directors and appoint adequate personnel. if the Board does not follow the mentioned requirements.
  • The Amendment would not be applicable to “primary agricultural credit societies and co-operative land mortgage banks”.

Jammu And Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020
The bill added ‘Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi’ languages to the list of the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, only Urdu and English were the official languages.

Other Bills Passed By Rajya Sabha

  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed after the 2 farm bills. It removed cereals, potatoes, onions etc from “essential commodities” list while also removing the restrictions on their storage. The farm bills allow farmers to sell to private buyers and industries besides the APMC ‘mandis’.
  • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed, which converted agencies like DGCA, AAIB and BCAS into statutory bodies while granting them more authority.
  • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment (FCRA) Bill, 2020 was approved. The Bill tightened measures regarding the use of foreign funds by NGOs as well as the penalties levied on their misuse.
Curiopedia
  • The Vice President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions. Venkaiah Naidu is the current Vice President of India.
  • A bicameral legislature has legislators in two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, about 40% of the world’s national legislatures are bicameral, and about 60% are unicameral.
  • Sansad Marg is a street located in New Delhi, India. The street gets its name from the Parliament House (Sansad Bhavan).

Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020 Passed In Parliament

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020 Passed In Parliament

The Aircraft Amendment Bill 2020 was recently passed in the Parliament, which now awaits approval from the President of India. The move would add autonomy and authority to the aviation agencies, which has been on demand since long.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Announcement
On 15 September 2020, the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed in the Rajya Sabha; the bill was approved by the Lok Sabha in March 2020. The amendment would be modifying the Aircraft Act, 1934.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri reported that 300,000 passengers were managed by Indian airports daily before the Covid-19 pandemic, and also announced the addition of 100 new airports by 2024.

Amendments
Minister Puri declared that suggestions by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) after audit in 2012 have been incorporated in the amendment.

  • Aviation agencies like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) would now be converted into statutory bodies.
    The move grants more authority in decision making and penal action to the agencies, each of which would have a Director-General appointed by the Central Government.

  • DGCA would supervise on safety measures and regulatory functions, while the BCAS would regulate functioning concerning security in civil aviation. The AAIB would work on investigations regarding aircraft accidents.
  • Highest fine has been increased from ₹10 lakhs to ₹1 crore. These fines are levied on offences like carrying banned items in the plane (ammunition, explosives etc) or for illegal construction in the vicinity of an airport).
  • Provision for suspending/canceling of “licence, certificate of approval” for breach of rules under the Act has been added. These licenses include those provided for establishing and maintaining airport systems and the aircrafts.
  • Aircraft of any “armed forces” besides Navy, Military and Airforce would also be exempted now from the Aircraft Act – includes agencies like BSF. Earlier, only Army, Navy and Airforce aircraft were exempted from the Act.
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  • Shivkar Bāpuji Talpade was an Indian technical instructor in the art and craft department of Sir JJ School of Art, who, as per some reports, constructed the first unmanned aircraft in 1895. A film based on the life of Talpade, Hawaizaada, starring Ayushmann Khurrana, was released in 2015.
  • Hardeep Singh Puri is an Indian politician and the current Civil Aviation Minister of India. Hardeep has served as Joint secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs from 1994 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2002. 
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade association of the world’s airlines founded in 1945. Consisting in 2016 of 290 airlines, primarily major carriers, representing 117 countries, the IATA’s member airlines account for carrying approximately 82% of total available seat miles air traffic.

Chinese Censorship In Foreign Sports And Industries

Chinese Censorship In Foreign Sports And Industries

Falling victim to the stringent Chinese censorship norms, several firms as well as sports leagues have modified their content and rules to maintain cordiality with China, which has a huge market being formed out of the largest population in the world.

Crux of the Matter

Mercedes
In 2018, Mercedes-Benz put a ‘MondayMotivation’ post on Instagram using a motivational quote by the Dalai Lama. The Chinese Government considers the Dalai Lama a “dangerous separatist” as he escaped to India after China violently suppressed the independence movement in Tibet in 1959.

Mercedes deleted the post after backlash, and claimed in a statement that they “will promptly take steps to deepen [their] understanding of Chinese culture and values…[and] ensure this sort of issue doesn’t happen again”. It is worth noting that Instagram has been banned in China since 2014.

Marriott And Zara
In 2018, the Chinese website of the Marriott International hotels was suspended for a week as the website listed Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate countries – China considers both as parts of its territory. The Chinese website of the Spanish apparel retailer Zara faced similar criticism for listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries.

The issue ended with both the companies issuing public apologies and promising to abstain from such comments in the future.

Zoom App
In June 2020, video conferencing app ‘Zoom’ removed accounts of several users in Hong Kong and the US which were paying tributes to the victim of 1989 Tiananmen Square – a pro-democracy movement where more than 10,000 activists (mostly students) were killed.

Zoom later reversed the decision and accepted that the Chinese Communist Party had pressurized it to remove the accounts of the activists.

NBA And Chinese Influence
NBA, the basketball league of the US, is one of the most followed basketball leagues in the world.

  • October 2018: Daryl Morey, the General manager of the ‘Houston Rockets’ team, tweeted in support of protests in Hong Kong. China immediately announced that it would not broadcast the team’s games in its territory while several sponsors terminated their contract with the team.
  • Famous basketball player LeBron James criticized Morey while the NBA labelled Morey’s tweet “regrettable”.

  • The NBA later reversed its statement after both the Democrats and the Republicans condemned its alleged “appeasement”. In his statement, NBA Chief Adam Silver claimed there are “consequences from freedom of speech” but they would “live with those consequences”.

Similar controversy occurred in June-July 2020 when the NBA banned the usage of the “Free Hong Kong” phrase on customized jerseys. While the NBA labelled the incidents “errors” and fixed it later, US Senator Josh Hawley wrote a letter to the NBA asking that “if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view”.

Large viewership and high revenue have been cited as the reasons for the NBA’s evasive stance regarding issues with China. NBA had ~600 million viewers in China (2017-18)
Moreover, its ‘5 year deal’ with Chinese firm Tencent for “digital streaming rights” of matches in China is reportedly worth $1.5 billion.

App Bans
Most used apps like Twitter, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc are banned in China, with State-controlled apps like WeChat, Weibo, etc being used instead. Several cases of Weibo, WeChat, TikTok, etc removing content criticizing China from all over the world have been reported.

Twitter also recently suspended the account of a Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan who claimed that Covid-19 was “manufactured”.

Also Read: Chinese Censorship In Hollywood And Bollywood

Curiopedia
  • The Chinese Dream is a term promoted by Xi Jinping since 2013 within Chinese society that describes a set of personal and national ethos and ideals in China. Xi began promoting the phrase as a slogan in a high-profile visit to the National Museum of China in November 2012 after taking the office of general secretary.
  • The Harmonious Society is a socioeconomic concept in China that is recognized as a response to the increasing social injustice and inequality emerging in mainland Chinese society as a result of unchecked economic growth. The governing philosophy has therefore shifted around economic growth to overall societal balance and harmony.
  • Stephen Chow is a filmmaker, actor, producer, political adviser of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and martial artist. He is internationally known for directing and acting in commercially successful movies like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

What Is The FCRA 2020 Bill Recently Passed In Lok Sabha?

What Is The FCRA 2020 Bill Recently Passed In Lok Sabha?

The Lok Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment (FCRA) Bill 2020 on 21 September, changing rules regarding funds for Indian NGOs from foreign while tightening the existing laws.

Crux of the Matter

If you want to know how NGOs function in India, read this interesting and simplified piece on NGOs in India: Understanding NGOs In India

Passed Bills
On 21 September 2020, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment (FCRA) Bill 2020 was passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill would amend the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. In its statement, the Government claimed that the laws are “not against NGOs” and only seek to “stop misuse of foreign contributions by people”.

Features
The Bill would do the following if passed by the Rajya Sabha and the President:

  • Prohibit “public servants” and “corporations owned or controlled by the government” from receiving funds from outside India.
  • Reduce the maximum limit for expenditure on administration to 20% of the total foreign funding from the earlier limit of 50%.
  • Allow the Government to stop the use of funds for offenders by holding a “summary inquiry”. Previously, the action was taken only after the entity was “found guilty” of breaching the laws.
  • Ban the transfer of “grants” obtained under FCRA to “any other person or organisation”.
  • Foreign funds would be transferred only to ‘‘FCRA Accounts” in SBI Banks in New Delhi for people granted permission under section 12. However, provision to open more accounts in other banks to utilize the funds is present in the bill.
  • Aadhaar cards would be made compulsory for “all office-bearers, directors and other key functionaries of NGOs or associations eligible to receive foreign donations”.
  • Allow Government to cancel the FCRA certificate of an entity for more than 180 days (earlier limit).

The Home Ministry noted the alleged misuse of foreign funds by organizations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP), etc. In the amendment, it has been claimed that the “annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered”.

Criticism

  • Critics claim that the Bill is designed to discourage foreign funding for social work in India by making the process more complex and binding.
  • They also brought the issue of the PM Cares Fund which has been exempted from FCRA.

The most severe criticism of the decision has come for political parties which are still exempted from the FCRA.

  • 2014: Delhi High Court found BJP and Congress guilty of receiving foreign funding.
  • 2016: Government changed the definition of Foreign companies – claimed that any firm having less than 50% of “share capital” held by foreign entities would be Indian.
  • 2018: Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) was amended with a ‘retrospective effect’, with the foreign funds received by political parties since 1976 being freed from supervision.

Curiopedia
  • Advocacy groups, also known as special interest groups, use various forms of advocacy in order to influence public opinion and ultimately policy. They play an important role in the development of political and social systems. Groups such as these have secured the nature of their influence by gaining status as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). 
  • The Servants of India Society was formed in Maharashtra, in 1905 by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The Society organized many campaigns to promote education, sanitation, health care and fight the social evils of untouchability and discrimination, alcoholism, poverty, oppression of women and domestic abuse.
  • Ashoka is an international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship by affiliating individual social entrepreneurs into the Ashoka organization. Each Ashoka fellow receives a financial stipend that the fellow can use to pay for their personal expenses so that they can fully devote their time in pursuit of innovative social ideas.

New Farm Bills In India: Features And Impact

New Farm Bills In India: Features And Impact

With the Rajya Sabha passing two major bills related to farmers and their business, let us look at the salient features of the farm bills while noting their impact on the farmers.

Crux of the Matter

Passed Bills
On 20 September, 2020, the Rajya Sabha passed two farm bills passed in the Lok Sabha previously –

  • The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020.
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

On 21 September, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill was to be put in the Rajya Sabha.

Features Of The New Bills

The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020

  • Allows farmers to sell their produce to buyers other than ‘mandis’ (market) regulated by Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) – farmers can sell to private buyers too.
  • Adds the option of selling outside the state of the farmer.
  • Prohibits state governments from imposing market fee on “farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms” for trading outside the ‘trade area’ or with a buyer other than the mandi.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020

  • Allows agreement between farmers and buyers before the production.
  • Fixes a price before the production for the produce to be sold at.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill

  • Removes cereals, pulses, onion, potatoes, etc from the “list of essential commodities”.
  • Removes restrictions on storing – earlier, traders could be prosecuted for “hoarding” essential items.
  • Government intervention to occur only in cases of famine, war, or any extraordinary calamity.

Impact

  • Farmers would be freed from the middlemen who would lose ‘commission fees’ if the former move outside APMC.
  • Marketing prices would be reduced for the farmers.
  • The risk of market volatility would be transferred from farmers to buyers and sponsors.
  • Contract farming with a proper legal network would increase.

To put in perspective, 86% of “land holdings” by farmers are of less than 2 hectares according to Agriculture Census (2015-16). Consequently, these farmers with small lands end up as ‘net buyers’ of food and essential crops. Moreover, the MSP hikes distress these farmers the most.

  • Farmers would have more options for selling, now having a provision to sell to the private sector if better price is offered.
  • Farmers would be free from ‘mandi tax’ levied by the state.
  • APMC mandis would not be shut, with only an option of private sector being added for farmers.

PM Modi clarified on Twitter that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the Government Procurement would continue.

MSP – minimum price for a crop fixed by the Government before farming season – ensures that farmers don’t face loss in case of drastic price decline. The MSP is applicable to APMC only.

Also Read: New Farm Bills In India: Opposition And Reactions

Curiopedia
  • A price floor is a government- or group-imposed price control or limit on how low a price can be charged for a product, good, commodity, or service. Governments use price floors to keep certain prices from going too low. 
  • eNAM is an online trading platform for agricultural commodities in India. The market facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities. The market transactions stood at ₹36,200 crores by January 2018, mostly intra-market. 
  • Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan was a slogan by the second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, in 1965 at a public gathering in Delhi. In 2015, a film based on Shastri’s life was released which was named after this slogan.