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Parliament Review: Discussion on Price Rise & other pressing issues dominate the Parliament proceedings

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During the third week of the budget session of parliament after the monthlong break, there was extensive discussion on various pressing issues like price rise, budget allocation to programs like MNREGA, etc. Multiple bills were passed, and multiple standing committees submitted reports. Here is a review of the third week of the second leg of the budget session.

The second week of the second leg of the ongoing Budget session witnessed extensive discussion on the Demand for Grants of various ministries for the financial year 2022-23. The Finance Bill, 2022 was passed in the Lok Sabha with a total of 39 amendments. The Appropriation Bill, 2022 which provides for the authorization and appropriation of certain funds from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India for the financial year 2022-23 was also introduced and passed in the Lower House. The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was also introduced in the Lok Sabha. Here is the review of the third-week proceedings. 

Key Developments of the last week

72 MPs are slated for retirement between March and July 2022

During the third week (28 March 2022 to 01 April 2022), Rajya Sabha bid farewell to 72 members of the House who were slated for retirement between March and July 2022. The members retiring include A.K. Antony, Ambika Soni, Anand Sharma, Suresh Prabhu, Praful Patel, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Jairam Ramesh, Prasanna Acharya, Sanjay Raut, Naresh Gujral, Sardar Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and Satish Chandra Misra, who served at least three terms. P. Chidambaram had the longest legislative experience among those retiring, with one term in Rajya Sabha and seven terms in Lok Sabha. The Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mallikarjun Kharge, and other MPs spoke about the contributions of the retiring members.

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MNREGA, price hike of fuel and essential drugs, and increasing cost of living were discussed

The week also witnessed discussions on various pressing issues. A Hike in fuel prices and rising prices of essential items and essential medicines were raised in the Rajya Sabha. From April 2022, the prices of essential medicines have increased by 10-11%. This move was criticized by the opposition for being the steepest hike, that too during a medical emergency. 

Another issue raised by the opposition was regarding the reduction in budget allocation to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). Sonia Gandhi stated that the allocation to MNREGA in 2022-23 was 35% lower than the allocation in the previous year, adding that the workers were deprived of timely payments. 

Climate change was discussed for about two hours in the Lower House

For about two hours during the last week, the Lok Sabha discussed the issue of climate change on 31 March 2022. Gaurav Gogoi of the INC asked if the Government has any plans to come up with a new climate change-based law or a new ‘National Framework’ and a new nodal agency. Pointing at the targets set to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 and remove one billion tonnes by 2030, he asked about the pace at which India was moving towards the goal. He added that though solar energy is being produced, the pace of adaption to solar vehicles is low. He further added that people employed in the coal sector would be significantly affected because of the transition. He called for infrastructure and proper planning to deal with the issue. 

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the INC citing a study in The Lancet Planetary Health Journal, said that 7,40,000 deaths take place in India every year due to abnormally hot and cold climate conditions. He also referred to the Climate Action Tracker 2021, in which India’s action was marked as ‘insufficient’.

Under Rule 193, the opposition questioned the government if they took measures to ensure that the sports federations are professionally run. Another question about increased funding for sports was also raised. The issue of sexual harassment and actions are taken for the mental health of sportspersons were also raised. 

About the Bills taken up

The Finance Bill, 2022 and the Appropriation Bill, 2022 were returned by the Rajya Sabha without changes implying approval of the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 starting 01 April 2022. During the discussion on these Bills, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman maintained that there will be a predictable economic recovery in the coming years. 

The Chartered Accountants, the Cost and Works Accountants and the Company Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to amend the existing Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, the Cost and Works Accountants Act, 1959 and the Company Secretaries Act 1980 was introduced. The Bill is aimed at providing a mechanism for dealing with cases of misconduct in the three concerned professional institutions. Replying to concerns raised in the Parliament with respect to the Bill, Nirmala Sitharaman asserted that there was no proposal or intention to infringe upon the autonomy of the three institutions, namely; ICAI, ICWA and ICSI. The Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of 2021 was passed by the Lok Sabha in the previous week. 

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 which aims to authorize the police to take measurements of convicts and accused, for the purposes of their identification and investigation in criminal matters to preserve records, was moved for the introduction. However, there was opposition in the Lok Sabha for introduction citing that the Bill was a violation of the basic rights of an individual, following which the matter was put to vote. There were 120 votes in favour and 58 against the introduction and the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. 

The Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to amend The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957  to merge the trifurcated North, South, and East Delhi Municipal Corporations was introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah in the Lower House on 25 March 2022. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. 

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The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 to omit the Bhogta community from the list of Scheduled Castes in Jharkhand, and for inclusion of the same and a few other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand that was introduced in the Rajya Sabha during the first leg of the session was passed in Rajya Sabha. 

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 01 April 2022. The Bill seeks to regulate the visits and activities in Antarctica as well as potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent.

Reports submitted

The Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology, chaired by Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor submitted an Action Taken Report of the Government on “India’s Preparedness for 5G”. The report also expressed concern about the 5G rollout delay stating that the delay would deprive the country of taking advantage of various benefits of 5G when other countries of the world have made noticeable progress in the deployment of the technology.  

Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, in its report on “Development of Tourism Infrastructure in the country” recommended that the Union government devise a mechanism to build infrastructure with the assistance of state governments and other agencies to bring world standard spots with all the amenities. Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture also tabled its reports on “Issues related to Security in Civil Aviation Sector”, “Issues related to Security in Civil Aviation Sector” and “Progress made in implementation of Sagarmala Projects”. 

Standing Committee on Social Justice And Empowerment tabled a report “Review of the Functioning of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS)” in which it noted that out of the total 740 schools, which are required to be sanctioned by 31 March 2022, only 620 schools were sanctioned by 13 July 2021, out of which 367 are functional. 

Notable Questions

A total of 39,816 people lost their lives in road accidents between 2016 and 2020, because of using mobile phones, according to a response provided in the Lok Sabha, by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. 

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Responding to a question on the Jiyo Parsi Scheme in the Rajya, the Ministry of Minority Affairs stated that it implements a community-specific scheme, ‘Jiyo Parsi’- A scheme for containing the population decline of Parsis of India. The scheme is being implemented by a Project Implementing Agency “Parzor Foundation”.  A total of 359 babies have been born with the assistance under this Scheme.

When asked about the details of renewal applications refused under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that it had refused a total of 466 applications. 100 applications were refused in 2020, 341 in 2021, and 25 in 2022 as of 21 March 2022 for not fulfilling the eligibility criteria as per the provisions of FCRA, 2010. 

A question raised in the Lok Sabha asked whether the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) framed guidelines to regulate the participation of children in TV serials, reality shows and advertisements to which the Ministry of Women and Child Development responded that guidelines were released in 2010-11. The guidelines have also been circulated among all TV channels and their associations.

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