WINTER SESSION – A COLD WAVE OR A THAW?

about 1 year ago
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By Ruma Dubey

The Exit Polls are out and it is pretty much what we all knew all along – BJP in Gujarat and Himachal. Wasn’t this a foregone conclusion? This is something which the media built up and up, building it into a suspense. And the markets today are already celebrating and cheering.

Be it online news, electronic or the good ole’ newspaper – it looks like the only thing happening in India currently is the Gujarat elections. The entire media is hung up only and only about the outcome of Gujarat. The event is made into such a huge thing that one would wonder whether these elections are actually a make and break for the nation. Making it so critical for the BJP, saying that its future hinges on this Gujarat outcome is really an exaggeration. Is it because we do not have any other trigger or is it because we simply do not have the will to look for other more legitimate and logical triggers?

The Parliament session starts today and the way this news has been completely relegated into obscurity, one wonders whether the message being conveyed is – only winning elections matter but what happens in the Parliament is of no significance. Is it that today the Parliament sessions have no relevance at all? Isn’t that what the Govt has also conveyed – elections first and Parliament later? Thank God they did not wait for the outcome to start the Winter Session!

The usual schedule for the Winter Session is usually November to December and this is probably for the first time that it begins so late, 15th December and to end on 5th January, 2018. It’s a 14-day session and lowest count since 1999 when the NDA was in power. Statistics show that both, BJP/NDA and Congress/NDA are guilty of delaying sessions due to elections. In 2003 (NDA), 2008 (UPA) and 2013 (UPA), elections were held in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi & Mizoram. And the winter sessions began only after the last day of polling in each of these years.

So doesn't this mean that Parliament has historically been stalled for elections? Apparently yes. But two wrongs cannot make a right.  Clearly politics is at center stage; after all isn’t the Parliament also an elected political body first?

Getting back to the business of legislation, in this session which begins today, there will be a total of 14 sittings. The agenda for legislation includes 25 Bills for consideration and passing. 14 Bills are listed for introduction, consideration and passing. One Bill is listed for withdrawal.

And there are quite a few important Bills which come up for nod this session. The contentious Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017 is coming up again; the same bill had led to an impasse last time. This is for granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

There is the very controversial bill which seeks to legalise the use of marijuana or cannabis– the person wanting to legalise this is Dharam Vira Gandhi, Member of Parliament from Patiala, Punjab.

Then there is also the Bill which wants to grant voting rights to NRIs. Today a huge number of Indians stay abroad and they can contribute to the development when they vote too. Americans, British and most others allow this; so why not give this recognition to NRIs?

The other contentious bill is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This Bill proposes that illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan from specified religious groups will be eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

Equally controversial is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which permits the central government to carry out construction in prohibited areas, around protected monuments and archaeological sites, for public purposes. Seriously?

The previous or the 19-day Monsoon session of the Parliament did not have a great performance – productivity of the Lok Sabha was at 67% and Rajya Sabha was at 72%. A higher proportion of the productive time (40%) in Lok Sabha was spent on legislative business which included the passage of 11 Bills. In Rajya Sabha, a higher proportion of the time was spent on non-legislative business (42%), which includes discussions on India’s foreign policy, recent floods in the country, and incidents of mob violence and lynching. Let’s see where this 14-day winter session heads? Hope disruptions will not mar this session too....

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