Friday, July 29, 2011


29 July 2011


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has convened a meeting of leaders of parties on Sunday at noon to prepare for a six-week monsoon session of Parliament from Monday that promises to be stormy with the Opposition armed with over a dozen issues to put the government on mat every day.

She is also expected to take a decision on Sunday on the ticklish resignations by 13 MPs of Andhra Pradesh, including 9 from the Congress and two each from TDP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, in support of the demand for a separate Telangana state. Resignations of MPs and MLAs have already put the government on spot to decide the contentious issue expeditiously.

Continuing price rise, corruption, black money, land acquisition, 13/7 Mumbai blasts, Telangana, rail accidents, black gold (coal) scam and Maoist violence are among the issues on the top of the Opposition's agenda.

The main opposition Bhartiya Janata Party is gunning for dismissal and arrest of Home Minister P Chidambaram, citing what it claims as revelations made by arrested former telecom minister A Raja on his role in the 2G scam. Only the other day, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy even went to the extent of alleging that Chidambaram got a cut of Rs 5,000 crores from Raja in the scam.

The BJP is targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well in the 2G scam while the Congress is geared up to assert that its removal of B S Yeddyurappa as the Karnataka chief minister will not be enough as even the BJP headquarters and national leaders have been beneficiary of the illegal iron ore mining scam. 

WOMEN'S RESERVATION: The Speaker convened two meetings of floor leaders last month for a consensus on the women's reservation bill but without success while Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been vowing to get it passed during the monsoon session. The Bill granting 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9 last year.

Bansal also said the Lokpal Bill, cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday, will be the first official Bill to be introduced on August 3. It will be then referred to the standing committee to examine it and get feedback of the public and concerned people before it is brought back for passage, possibly during the winter session in November-December.

FLAGSHIP BILL: The government has readied its yet another flagship Food Security Bill, Communal Violence Bill and the Lokpal Bill to be introduced during the session and push for passage of three other key legislations of Women's Reservation Bill that was practically abandoned after it were passed by the Rajya Sabha last year, the Nuclear Liability Bill and the Direct Tax Code Bill to replace the Income Tax Act and the 115th Constitution Amendment Bill to usher in the new Goods and Service Tax (GST).

The Land Acquisition Bill was also in the government's priority list for introduction during the monsoon session, but Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh got it deferred to give him time to hold a month-long consultation with the state governments and also seek public opinion by mounting the draft on Internet. He sought time on the ground that it is going to be a landmark Bill that will for the first time bring land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement in a singled integrated law.

The UPA-II government had started its innings declaring eight important Bills in its 100-day agenda but only Right to Education (RTE) has won parliamentary approval.

In the budget session agenda, the government had announced 34 Bills but only five could be passed besides the financial bills related to the Union Budget and the Railway Budget.

A staggering number of 81 official Bills have piled up in Parliament and it is doubtful that 26 sittings planned in the monsoon session will be enough to reduce this backlog of the pending bills. The government finds itself handicapped in pushing through these bills in earlier sessions because of most business hours lost in protests and adjournments.

25-YEAR-OLD: Among the pending bills is one of 1987 hanging for almost a quarter of century with change of ten governments and election of eight new Lok Sabhas. It seeks changes in the Medical Council of India.

Most crucial among the pending Bills are the women's reservation bill and the pension bill whose delay is most disturbing since the pension fund and its regulator are already in place but without statutory backing.

For that matter, at least 10 key financial sector reform bills are pending for Parliament's approval. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed confidence while talking to a select group of reporters here last week that some of these bills "should be able to get through in the forthcoming session" but being frank that "how many, I cannot say as it will depend."

Investors are keenly awaiting the fate of several financial sector legislations. The string of scandals in the past one year led to a policy paralysis and stalled legislative business as the government has been caught up fending off allegations of corruption.

The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill brought in 2008 to hike FDI (foreign direct investment) in the insurance companies from 26 to 49 per cent is not yet cleared by the standing committee on finance as it is pressing the government to better withdraw it.

While the standing committee is yet to finalise its views on this bill, it held its first meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill, 2011 and is understood to have asked the finance ministry some tough questions on its intentions regarding the pension sector.

“Neither of the Bills will be ready for discussion in the Monsoon session as the committee is still working on them,” a person close to the development said. The panel however is likely to finalise its report on the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which seeks to raise the ceiling on voting rights of shareholders of nationalised banks to 10 per cent.

M Veerappa Moily in his new avatar as the corporate affairs minister will be pushing for passage of a new companies bill he had readied in the monsoon session with a promise that running a business in India will not be difficult any more.


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