Parliament Budget Session 1st innings plays out with bouquets and brickbats

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs announced the budget session in 2-phases; 1st from January 31 to February 11 and the second from March 2 to April 3 which includes 31 sittings.

Crux of the Matter

Day 1 – President’s Address
On January 31, 2020, The President of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, addressed a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament outlining the major policy achievements and objectives of the government.

The President spoke vividly on the measures taken to handle economic challenges and meet the GDP targets. He highlighted the growing startup ecosystem which is creating newer opportunities in different sectors.

He also applauded the decisions of the government in the past year in all areas right from J&K, North East, Defence, Infrastructure, ISRO, Cleanliness, Minorities, and other major developments.

He said, “This decade, which has just begun, will determine India’s global standing in the times to come. The world will witness an inclusive, prosperous, capable and powerful New India in this decade.”

Day 2 – The Finance Bill, 2020
On February 1, the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who also presented the Union Budget which brought major structural reforms which are expected to accelerate the slow-moving economy and bring in good governance and ease of doing business.

The government will be spending Rs 20,42,230 crore in 2020-21, which is 12.7% higher than 2019-20. The ministry wise budget stands at:

  • Ministry of Defence – Rs. 4,71,378 crores
  • Human Resource – Rs. 99,312 crores
  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs – Rs. 50,040 crores
  • Ministry of Rural Development – Rs. 1,22,398 crores
  • Ministry of Home Affairs – Rs. 1,67,250 crores
  • Ministry of Agriculture – Rs. 1,42,762 crores

A major change in the income tax rates was proposed and additionally, tax benefits were announced for a variety of sectors to boost infrastructure growth.

Read Summachar’s detailed budget analysis here.

Day 3
On February 3, the Lok Sabha discussed Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and skill development in Maharashtra during the question hour.

Whereas in the Rajya Sabha the report by Ad-hoc Committee on the issue of child pornography and its effect on society was tabled and later the house had to be adjourned due to continuous disruptions.

Day 4
On February 4, ‘The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020‘ was introduced by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri in the Lok Sabha.

The Bill seeks to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934 to regulate the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft, and licensing of aerodromes.

In the Rajya Sabha, a range of issues were raised during the Zero Hour including revocation of the amendment to the 2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

Day 5
On February 5, ‘The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020‘ was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The bill provides a mechanism for resolution of pending tax disputes related to income and corporation taxes. The Select Committee Report on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 was tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

Day 6
On February 6, the Prime Minister replied to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address in both the houses.

In the Lok Sabha, he spoke elaborately on burning issues of CAA, Article 370, and Bodo Agreement in an hour-long speech. In the Rajya Sabha, the PM launched a fierce attack on the claims made by Congress party in the areas of employment, agriculture, farmer’s income, and economy by presenting statistics w.r.t FDI & GST.

After a series of disruptions and long debate of nearly 13 hours which included replies to the President’s address from all party leaders, the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address was adopted by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha through a voice vote.

After the motion was passed, a general discussion on the union budget started in the Lok Sabha.

Day 7
On February 7, a discussion on the Economic Survey 2019-20 was done in the Rajya Sabha. The Health Minister briefed the Lok Sabha on the status and measures taken to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Day 8
On February 10,The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020‘ was introduced by the Ministry of AYUSH in the Lok Sabha which proposes to merge 3 Ayurveda institutes in Jamnagar into the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda and declare it as an Institution of national importance.

According to the 15th Finance Commission Report for FY 2020-21, the share of states in the centre’s taxes is recommended to be decreased from 42% to 41% for 2020-21 to provide for the newly formed union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The Rajya Sabha discussed the Union Budget wherein the members highlighted the possible impacts of the 15th Finance Commission recommendations.

Day 9
On February 11, The Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. This Bill aims to include Karnataka’s Parivara and Talawara tribe into Scheduled Tribes.

The Standing Committee report on Labour on the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2019 was tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Bill, among other things, aims at establishing the National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board that would advise the government on rules, and standards of worker safety

The Rajya Sabha continued with the discussion on the budget wherein the Finance Minister outlined different plans and highlighted the positive indicators in the economy.

Later on, both the houses were adjourned for the first phase of the session and are now scheduled to meet on March 2.

Curiopedia

The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in India It is a bicameral legislature composed of the President of India and the two houses: the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. The period during which the House meets to conduct its business is called a session. The Constitution empowers the President to summon each House. The Indian Parliament conducts three sessions each year: Budget session: February to May; Monsoon session: July to September; Winter session: November to December. More Info

CAA Retrospective: What's the deal?

Trans-border migration of population has been prevalent between the territories of India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Millions of citizens of belonging to various faiths have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents in a hope of acquiring citizenship.

Crux of the Matter

Background

The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for Islam as their state religion. Lots of people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Earlier, migrants from the 3 nations who entered into India without valid travel documents were regarded as illegal migrants and were ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

The Bill

As per the 2019 amendment, now these migrants will not be treated as illegal migrants. Those who have entered India before 31 Dec 2014 will be given Indian citizenship. Other refugees from these communities will have their naturalisation period reduced to 5 years instead of the standard 11 years.

Illegal migrants from these countries who are Muslims, other minorities who do not belong to any of the above groups or Atheists will not be eligible for direct citizenship or exemption in the naturalisation process. They can still follow the normal naturalisation process of 11 years.

Fears of the North East

The North-Eastern regions feel a threat to their linguistic, cultural and social identity. The government assured them of no threat to their identity by not applying the Amendment Act the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the areas covered under ‘The Inner Line’ in which now Manipur has also been included. Amit Shah speaking in the Lok Sabha reassured that no provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill.

Fierce Opposition and the Govt’s Rebuttal

The opposition argues that the amendment violates the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion. Article 14 permits laws to differentiate between groups of people only if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill does not explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion.

The primary opposition to the CAA is that it is seen as a safety net that will ensure the citizenship of all Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsi. After the citizenship to all the non-Muslim communities is secured through the CAA; the NRC will be implemented which will discriminate towards Indian Muslims. The opposition claims that the government is taking away rights from Muslim citizens in the country and creating indifference which is a threat to the fundamentals of the Indian constitution.

Home Minister Amit Shah fiercely responded to the claim by saying, “The Bill has no provision to snatch citizenship from anyone but to grant citizenship only to the refugees. There is no need for Indian Muslims to live in fear.”

The protesters also fear that the cut-off date of December 31 2014, will become irrelevant which will lead to another provisional cut-off date and more migrants coming in.

Arguing on giving citizenship to Muslims, government has repeatedly clarified anyone who has entered India after 1st January 2015 and seeking citizenship will have to go through the normal process wherein there is no special status to any community.

Fear of CAA and NRC Combination, Govt Tries to Pacify Fears

Muslims fear discrimination in the nationwide process of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). Though NRC has no direct correlation to the CAA and its process is not revealed yet but still, the opposition claims that the combination of CAA and NRC goes against the Muslim community.

NRC has only been primarily implemented in Assam on directions of the Supreme court under the Assam accord.

Opposition demands that migrants from other countries also should be taken in consideration but the ministry reveals that the reason to be selective only for these 3 countries is primarily due to religious persecution the population of minorities has reduced considerably over the years and secondly due to failure of the Nehru-Liaqat pact of 1950.

The Home ministry revealed that there have been decisions taken earlier to grant citizenship to migrants from other countries and of different faiths. Amit Shah reiterated that the CAA would not have been required if the partition of India was not done on religious lines.

The government says that it has no political agenda and it is simply aimed to end the sufferings of the persecuted refugees. Apart from CAA, the NRC is aimed to ensure that no illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay in the country.

In the wake of violent protests across the country a lot of misinformation is being spread about the CAA and the NRC; for which the government has stepped in to provide authentic facts to bring in the much-needed clarity. 

Curiopedia

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016. It was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on August 12, 2016. The Committee submitted its report on January 7, 2019. It was passed by Lok Sabha on 8 January 2019. It lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Bharatiya Janata Party had promised to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but not Muslims. In the party’s election manifesto in 2014, the BJP had promised to welcome Hindu refugees and give shelter to them. More Info

Pranab Mukherjee Suggests Increasing Lok Sabha Seats to 1000

Former President Pranab Mukherjee while delivering the second Atal Vihari Vajpayee memorial lecture organised by India Foundation pitched for raising the number of Lok Sabha constituencies to 1,000 from the existing 543 and also for a corresponding increase in the strength of the Rajya Sabha.

Crux of the Matter
  • The last time the strength of Lok Sabha was revised was in 1977 based on the 1971 census when India’s population was 55 crores.
  • Pranab Mukherjee argued that India has a “disproportionately large size” of the electorate for elected representatives.
  • He added by saying, “A numerical majority in elections gives you the right to make a stable government. The lack of popular majority forbids you from a majoritarian government. That is the message and essence of our parliamentary democracy,”
  • He also noted that people may have given strong majorities to different parties since 1952 but over 50 per cent of them have never voted for one party.
  • He reiterated that the mandate is to govern as a majority party with a stable government along with carrying others with you.
  • He remembered Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a consensus-builder who worked to take everyone along.
Curiopedia

Pranab Mukherjee is an Indian politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. In a political career spanning five decades, Mukherjee has been a senior leader in the Indian National Congress and has occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, he served as the Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 2019 by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. During the controversial Internal Emergency of 1975–77, he was accused of committing gross excesses. He was also the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1985. More Info

With High Productivity Comes More Amendments: Winter Session of Parliament Concludes

Concluding the Winter session of the Parliament, Lok Sabha saw introduction of 18 Bills. Lok Sabha passed 14 Bills, while the Rajya Sabha passed 15 Bills. Lok Sabha functioned at 116% productivity and Rajya Sabha with 100% productivity.

Crux of the Matter
  • Decisive Bills passed in the area of Social and Justice and Reforms were: The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Arms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Transgender Persons Bill delineates the definition of a transgender person and regulations for protecting their rights and welfare
  • Important Bills passed in the Administrative Sector Reforms were: The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill, 2019, The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2019. The 126th Constitution amendment extends the SC-ST reservation for 10 years, till 25th January 2030.
  • Bills passed in the economic sector were: The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.
  • Lok Sabha, under Rule 193, had discussed on ‘air pollution and climate change’ and ‘crop loss and its impact on farmers’.
  • A Special Discussion was held in Rajya Sabha on ‘The Role of RS in Indian Polity and way forward’. RS also discussed issues of air pollution, WhatsApp spyware Pegasus, and timely completion National Irrigation Project.
Curiopedia

Sessions of Parliament – The period during which the House meets to conduct its business is called a session. The Constitution empowers the President to summon each House at such intervals that there should not be more than a six-month gap between the two sessions. Hence the Parliament must meet at least twice a year. In India, the Parliament conducts three sessions each year:
– Budget session: February to May
– Monsoon session: July to September
– Winter session: November to December
Read More

Barak Valley In Assam Welcomes Citizenship (Amendment), Bill

Citizenship Amendment Bill

Shortly after the parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 11, Assam’s Barak Valley which is a predominantly Hindu-Bengali region has whole-heartedly welcomed the passage of the controversial bill by saying that the ‘legislation will rectify the wrongs to the state’s Hindu-Bengali community.’

Crux of the Matter
  • Bengali- dominated districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hilakandi where the Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh reside are completely peaceful and support the bill. This is in contrast to the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, where violent protests have disrupted the day to day life.
  • Barak Valley citizens gathered at the Shahid Minar and lit candles in support of the Bill. They believe that the bill was a national promise that persecuted population gets citizenship.
  • Post-1971 Partition, a sizeable Bengali-Hindu population migrated to the Barak Valley to escape religious persecution in Bangladesh.
  • Senior BJP leader Kabindra Purkayashtha said, “I am confident that now the problem of citizenship for Bengali Hindus will be sorted out.”
  • At the same time, indefinite curfew was imposed in Guwahati and mobile internet services were suspended in 10 districts of Assam.
Curiopedia

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is a bill amending the Citizenship Act of 1955 to give a path to Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. It also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these migrants. The Union Cabinet cleared the Bill on 4 December 2019. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019 and, subsequently, in the Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019. More Info