By Ruchi Bambha:
With almost no time left for the 15th Lok Sabha session to end, we are amid a predicament where many significant bills are still awaiting conclusion in the Indian Parliament. Sadly, the 15th Lok Sabha term has established beyond doubt its laxity by leaving more than 120 bills pending, which accounts the current term as the worst performing ever. We cannot refute that some of the key bills such as the National food security bill 2013, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill 2013 and Companies bill were passed in the monsoon session. Also, the historic Lokpal bill was given nod by the parliament on December 18, 2013(winter session) paving the way for establishment of an ombudsman to fight corruption in public offices and ensure accountability on the part of public officials, including Prime Minister, with some safeguards. However, the parties have to go miles before they can ensure peaceful sleep for people from different economic strata.
Acknowledging the need to validate more bills as the Winter Session did not condition as thought, the extended winter session, as planned by the cabinet, commenced from 5th February 2014. This ongoing session has on it the onus to take charge of many unattended bills that the National Advisory Council has proposed. The session had a bittersweet beginning where Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill was deferred on the very first day of the session. The opposition parties – BJP, CPI (M), and AIADMK attacked the Bill accusing it to be against the federal nature of the constitution. They also voiced against the fact that this bill intervened in the functioning of the State. Shockingly, after seeing the apathetic attitude of the UP government towards the Muzzafarnagar riot victims, this reaction of the parties was absolutely uncalled for. Their complete aggression towards the bill only highlights their fear regarding the revelation of the state funded riots.
They could have instead proposed some modifications over the bill, if they thought it blatantly targeted only the Hindu section of the nation. It is really sad that the parties fail to find out a conciliated measure to stop communal riots at a time when it has reached the level of normality. On the other hand, the Union Cabinet cleared Telangana Bill for further proceedings and the signs that it will pass are quite promising.
Let us delve into some of the key bills that must be passed in this extended winter session of the parliament:
1. The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 – Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) act of 1986, that exists presently prohibits children up to the age of 14 from working in certain types of occupations and regulates their work conditions. This proposed Amendment Bill aims to bring forth another category to the Act which covers children between 14 and 18 years of age as well and bans their employment in hazardous occupation such as working in mines, with inflammable substances, and hazardous processes.
Interestingly, it also posits two other set of character to the bill. First, it seeks to enhance penalties. The punishment for employing a child will be increased to imprisonment from 6 months to two years and the fine will be increased from Rupees 20,000 to Rupees 50,000. Second, it empowers the government officials to periodically inspect places where the employment of children is prohibited. If passed, this bill will play a very important role in riddance of child laborers in the nation.
2. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 —The plight of Street Vendors is very common to all (Thanks to Bollywood). Of the 10 million street vendors in India, very few are legal which means that a vast majority of street vendors are vulnerable to bribery and extortion from local police and municipal authorities. The proposed bill aims to protect the livelihood of street vendors and regulates the sector by demarcating the vending zones. It seeks to create a uniform law for regulation in street vending across states and Union Territories.
3. Telangana Bill – Telangana Bill, which will be tabled very soon in the parliament, proposes to create a separate state of Telangana. If the bill is passed, then Andhra Pradesh will be divided into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhara) and Hyderabad would be the joint capital for both the states for a period of 10 years. The approval to form Telangana will be a historic and wise decision. Of course, any decision in this case would hurt the political sentiment of either group. Andhra Pradesh is a big state and its division would amplify the administration quality of both the states. Economically, formation of Telangana as a separate state would also lead to development of this non-coastal area which currently is not administered properly as Andhra Pradesh, by large, focuses on developing its coastal area.
4. Women’s Reservation Bill – Women’s Reservation bill, or the 108th Amendment bill, is still pending and there are bleak chances that in such a short span of time, the Lok Sabha would pass this bill. The bill seeks to reserve one third of the total seats in Lok Sabha and in all the State Legislative Assemblies for women .The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 but Lok Sabha’s verdict on it is still awaited. This bill ensures to maintain a healthy ratio between both the genders. It aims to increase the participation of women in matters of national concern and ensures that their decisions are also voiced properly.
5. Whistleblower Protection Bill – This bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 28th December, 2011. However, it still awaits its approval by the Rajya Sabha. The Whistleblower Protection bill comes across as one of the most important bills in a democratic nation as it aims to provide protection to those people who expose the wrongful act of public officials. It also seeks to eliminate corruption in the Indian Bureaucracy. Many RTI activists and people who expose corruption underlying in the system are often faced with harassment, threat calls and many of them are even murdered. The approval of this bill will provide security to the whistleblowers of the nation and would even make the process of removal of corrupt government officials relatively easy.
6. Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill – This bill aims to increase reservation for disabled persons in public sector jobs from the existing 3% to 5%, and to reserve seat for them in higher educational institutions. The current bill, along with some amendments, seeks to increase the scope of disability from 7 to 19 sub-categories. The approval of this bill will provide a wide range of opportunities (in education and job) to the people with disability to have a dignified and independent life. The bill also seeks to dispense stringent punishments to those who violate the rules of the legislative provision.
Apart from these bills, there are other bills like The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2013, The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill 2011 and The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill 2011 that also need attention during this parliament session. The need of the hour is, that the parties do not bring in their personal grievances where many important parliamentary discussions are held that concern the welfare of the citizens and that they should step up to make the future for all better.