With 45-50 working days left, fate of 116 bills hangs fire

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) With just about 45-50 working days left in the current Lok Sabha’s life, the fate of a staggering 116 bills, including those relating to food security and land acquisition, is hanging fire, experts say.

With parliament abruptly adjourned sine die Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule, there will now only be the monsoon and winter sessions in July-August and November-December, both of which will last about a month. With parliament meeting for five days a week, this makes for some 45-50 working days. The budget session in February 2014 will be a truncated one as only a vote on account can be taken in view of the general elections due in April-May.

But then, with the government cornered over a range of issues, including corruption, there is also talk of early polls.

“Let’s assume the elections are on schedule. Even in that case, there will be no regular budget session next year where legislative business can take place. So, we have two more sessions left at best, the monsoon and the winter sessions,” M.R. Madhavan, president of think tank PRS Legislative Research, told IANS.

“So even if we have two more sessions left at best, only a few bills might go through but there is very little time,” he added.

Vikas Tripathi, assistant professor of political Science in Delhi University’s Dyal Singh College, says it depends on how well the government can manage other parties.

“There is certainly an air of uncertainty around these bills. All depends on the duration of the government. If it is able to cross the monsoon session and go into the winter session, there could be some progress (in passing the bills),” Tripathi told IANS.

“No party seems interested in bringing a no-confidence motion. Thus, the fate of these bills depends on consensus being brought. There are three most important bills, the Lokpal bill, the food security bill and the one on land acquisition. It depends on how the government convenes all-party meets and coordination committee meets, and its communication with other parties,” Tripathi added.

If we go by the budget session – and of some of previous ones – it’ll be a tightrope walk for the government.

Apart from the appropriation bills, just two bills were passed during the budget session. These were the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill.

The Lok Sabha took just three minutes to pass the first, while the Rajya Sabha discussed it for almost three hours. In comparison, the Criminal Law Bill was discussed for more than five hours in the Lok Sabha and around three hours in the Rajya Sabha before being passed.

As for the the money bills, they were passed in the absence of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had walked out.

For record, 68 bills, apart from the money bills, had been listed for the budget session.

Some of the important bills now pending are:

* The National Food Security Bill that proposes foodgrain security for up to 75 percent of the rural and up to 50 percent of the urban population. It was taken up in the Lok Sabha but the opposition did not allow it to be debated as it pressed for the prime minister’s resignation on irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks.

* The Land Acquisition Bill: An all-party meeting was called just before the second half of the budget session started to discuss the bill and the government and the opposition appeared to be on the same page but it could not be taken up due to the constant ruckus in the Lok Sabha.

* The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill: The Rajya Sabha made some changes to the anti-graft bills passed by the Lok Sabha, which will now have to approve these.

* The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill: Passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha, this crucial bill provides safeguards for whistleblowers, prohibiting disclosure of their identity.

* The Grievance Redressal Bill makes it mandatory for every public authority to publish a citizens charter within six months of the act’s commencement. The charter will detail the goods and services to be provided and their timelines for delivery.

* Reservation in Services to SCs/STs (The Constitution (One Hundred and Seventeenth Amendment) Bill, 2012): Passed by the Rajya Sabha, the bill amends the constitution to provide for reservation in promotions in government jobs.

* The Educational Tribunals Bill seeks to set up tribunals at the national and state levels to adjudicate disputes between teachers and other employees of higher educational institutions and other stakeholders such as students, universities and regulatory authorities.

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