The second week of the 2022 Monsoon Session of the Parliament was also marked by repeated disruptions and suspension of a few members of the opposition from both houses. The family courts amendment bill was passed, few standing committee reports were laid among other things. Here is a review.
The Monsoon Session of the Parliament began on 18 July 2022. It is scheduled to be held till 12 August 2022 with a total of 18 sittings spread over 26 days. A total of 32 Bills are likely to be taken up in this session. Since the beginning of the session, both the houses have barely been able to transact significant business so far, with constant sloganeering from the opposition, causing frequent adjournments. We look at the key business developments during the second week of the 2022 monsoon session.
The fourth day of the session started with the sloganeering by opposition members against rising prices. After the initial adjournment in the Lok Sabha, a Zero-hour discussion was taken up. The rise in floods in the Godavari catchment area and the need for immediate measures against soil erosion were discussed. The Minister of Jal Shakti assured the support of the Government of India if desired by the state Government. It is followed by the discussion on Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban (PMAY-U). The Minister for Housing and Urban Development stated that a total of 1.21 Crore homes were sanctioned, out of which 61 lakh homes have been handed over to the beneficiaries. A total of Rs. 28,000 Crores have been earmarked for PMAY-U for the fiscal year 2022-23. Under Rule 377, a plea for inclusion of natural fibres in the textile ‘Production Linked Incentive Scheme’, and restoration of trains discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic were raised. In the Rajya Sabha, a discussion on ‘The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022’ was taken up.
The fifth day of the session also began with intense sloganeering from the opposition. In the Lok Sabha, a need for the regulatory board for online games, implementational issues of reservations in jobs and promotions of SCs and STs, need for measures against documentaries hurting religious sentiments were raised under Rule 377. Regarding the judicial pendency and the regional benches of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister reiterated the Supreme Court Judgement to not consider the recommendation of setting up regional benches of the Supreme Court. The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 was considered and passed by the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, questions regarding the railways, dairy, agriculture were raised. Private Member Bills such as The Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2022, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2022, The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2022, The Compulsory Voting Bill, 2022, The Bengal Freedom Fighters Memorial Bill, 2022, The Indian National Army Regiment Bill, 2022, The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021, The Central Public Sector Enterprises (Protection of Interests of States) Bill, 2022, and the National Commission for the Welfare of Home-based Workers Bill 2022 were introduced. The Right to Health Bill, 2021 was discussed in the Rajya Sabha on the fifth day.
The sixth day of the session started lately, owing to the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected President of India in the Parliament House. Most of the sixth day in both houses remained adjourned except for a few discussions. Both the houses congratulated Neeraj Chopra for winning India’s first ever silver medal in the World Athletics Championship. The discussion on ‘The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022’ continued and its passing is postponed. Matters like universal blood donation cards, writing off bad loans, and classical language status to Marathi were raised under Rule 377.
The seventh day of the session started with both the houses paying homage to martyrs of the Kargil war on the 23rd anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas. The business in Lok Sabha was scheduled for the consideration and passing of ‘The Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022’, and a discussion on the importance and need to promote sports in the country, along with the actions by the government in this regard. Matters like setting up district-level coaching centers for competitive exams across India, assistance to pomegranate farmers in Maharashtra, and discussion and dialogue with experts and affected stakeholders on policy reforms were raised under Rule 377. In the upper house, the discussion on ‘The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022’ continued, and 19 MPs were suspended for obstructing the business of the house.
The Eight days of the session ended up with no significant business transaction in the Upper House, while the Lower House took up the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 for consideration and passage.
Bills taken up
In this session, 32 Bills have been shortlisted for introduction, consideration, and passing in the Parliament, out of which 14 have been finalized. Some of the important bills which are likely to be taken up in this session include the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021, The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022. About 8 of these bills are already pending in Parliament while the remaining 24 are new.
On the first day of the session, The Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Union Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju. The amendment bill seeks to amend the Family Courts Act of 1984 with the objective of overcoming the issue of lack of jurisdiction of Family Courts in the States of Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland. The Family Courts Act, 1984 was enacted to establish family courts with a view to promote conciliation and secure speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs.
A total of 22 MPs participated in the debate, and the motion was adopted. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha on the seventh day of the session, i.e., 26 July 2022.
The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 01 April 2022. The Bill seeks to protect the environment of Antarctica, and give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. It was passed in Lok Sabha on the fourth day of the current session.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 was introduced by the External Affairs Minister in the Lok Sabha in the previous Budget session. The Bill seeks to expand the 2005 law to include a ban on funding of weapons of mass destruction and freeze, seize or attach funds or other financial assets or economic resources owned or controlled wholly or jointly by such person. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in the Budget session. Amidst the sloganeering, Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar moved the Weapons of Mass Destruction Bill in Rajya Sabha. However, the House was adjourned soon after. The discussions on the Bill have been postponed after MoS for Parliamentary Affairs V Muralidharan, requested that the bill be discussed in the presence of opposition members. Though the discussions continued, the bill did not get passed in the Upper House as of today.
Important Standing Committee Reports tabled
Action Taken by the Government on the recommendations/ observations contained in the twelfth Report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources was presented in the Lok Sabha. The report, ‘Flood Management in the country including international water treaties in the field of water resource management with particular reference to treaty/agreement entered into with China, Pakistan and Bhutan’, consisted of important reforms for measures for flood plain zoning, funding for flood management programs, comprehensive policy for Integrated Flood Management, Integrated reservoir operation for flood management, need for an apex body for flood management and control, and the need to expand the scope of flood forecasting stations. The majority of the recommendations are accepted by the Government.
Another report titled, ‘Role of autonomous bodies/educational Institutions including Central Universities, Engineering Colleges, IIMs, IITs, Medical Institutes, Navodaya Vidyalaya’s and Kendriya Vidyalaya, etc. in the socio-economic development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes” with special reference to the implementation of reservation policy in the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences’, under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was also laid on the floor. Major recommendations were about filling up the vacancies, reservations in super-specialty fields, reservations in contractual and outsourcing appointments, and complaints and grievances among other recommendations.
Action taken report on External Affairs on the subject ‘India and Bilateral Investment Treaties’ by the Committee on External Affairs (2021-22) was also laid on the table.
In response to a question on the position of India in the Global Hunger Index 2021, the Minister of women and Child Development said that India stood at 101 out of 116 countries. However, the Minister also claimed that this index doesn’t reflect the true picture of India, and the methodology used in its calculation is flawed.
To a question on the vacancies in the armed forces, the Defence Ministry responded that a total of 1,16,464 vacancies were present in the Indian Army, while the Indian Navy has 13,597 vacancies, and the Indian Air Force has 5,789 vacancies at all levels. When asked about the details of recruitment done in the past five years, the minister responded that the information is being collected and shall be laid on the table of the house.
Regarding domestic LPG consumers, the total number of domestic LPG consumers rose from 22.43 crore in 2018 to 30.95 crore, as of 01 July 2022. Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) delivered 116.9 crore refills (other than installation refill) from the inception of the scheme till 30 June 2022. The price of a domestic 14.2Kg LPG cylinder in Delhi on 01 April 2019 was Rs. 706.50, which grew to Rs. 1053 as on 06 July 2022.
On coal shortage and imports, the Minister for coal responded that there is no shortage of coal in the country. The total consumption/demand in 2017-18 stood at 898.25 million tons, while the supply was 690 million tons. In 2021-22 provisional figures, the consumption/demand grew to 1027.92 million tons, while the supply rose to 818.99 million tons. The consumption of coal grew at CAGR of 3.7% from 2012-13 to 2021-22.
On the question of URL blocking, the Minister for Electronics and Information Technology responded that around 2851 twitter URLs were blocked by the Ministry in 2021, while the number is 1122 until June 2022. This is a significant increase from 8 in 2014 and 15 in 2015.