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Parliament Review: Here is what happened in the first week of the 2022 Budget Session

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During the first week of the budget session of parliament for the year 2022, the President of India addressed the joint sitting of parliament, the finance minister laid the economic survey for 2021-22 and presented the annual budget for 2022-23. Here is a snapshot of all important developments of the first week. 

The Budget Session of Parliament began on 31 January 2022 and is expected to go on till 8 April 2022. The First leg of the Session will go on till 11 February 2022 following which there will be a break for about a month. It is during this time the Standing Committees examine budgetary allocations for various Ministries and Departments.

A total of 29 sittings in both legs have been planned for the current budget session. Due to the ongoing pandemic, arrangements have been made to ensure the safety of the members such as seat allocation, time schedule, and others The focus of this session is on Financial Business relating to the Union Budget for 2022-23 and discussion on the ‘Motion of Thanks on President’s Address’. Tentatively, a total of 20 items including 14 Bills on the legislative side and 6 Financial Items, were identified for being taken up during this session.

Key developments

The ongoing session began with the President of India addressing both the Houses together on 31 January 2022, in which he highlighted the major policy achievements and objectives of the government. He lauded the government’s efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and listed the achievements of the government across various sectors including health, agriculture, food distribution, economy, finance, manufacturing, infrastructure, employment, defence, welfare schemes, education, and transport. He concluded his address by stating that efforts must be put to make India a grand, modern, and developed nation by 2047 when India will celebrate the centenary of Independence. 

On the same day, the finance minister presented the Economic Survey of 2021-22. No Zero Hour or Question Hour was scheduled in both houses during the first two days of the Budget Session.

On the second day of the session (01 February 2022), the finance minister presented the Union Budget for 2022-23, the total expenditure of which is estimated at Rs. 39.45 lakh crores. This is the second budget presented after the outbreak of the pandemic which has had a severe impact on the economy. As per the government, the budget seeks to complement macro-economic level growth with a focus on micro-economic level, all-inclusive welfare. Some of the key announcements include the promotion of the digital economy & fintech, technology-enabled development, energy transition, climate action, and financing of investments. In line with the President’s address, the Union Budget 2022-23 also laid down the blueprint for the next 25 years to establish India as a global force by the year 2047. 

The government fixed four days- 2, 3, 4, and 7 February 2022 for discussion on the President’s speech as well as matters of national and international interest which have not been specifically mentioned in the speech, during the Motion of Thanks.  

On 2 February 2022, the Rajya Sabha chairman began the proceedings pointing out that the House lost more than half of the valuable sitting time due to disruptions and forced adjournments in the previous winter session. He further highlighted that the duration of the meetings of the Standing Committees had increased and complimented the members for the same.

Members of opposition raised numerous issues such as unemployment,  job losses, issue of MSMEs, religious conflicts, rising fuel prices, and foreign policy during the Motion of Thanks in either Houses. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi stated that there was a 46% drop in manufacturing jobs in India. Regarding foreign policy, he stated that ‘We have made huge mistakes in Jammu & Kashmir and foreign policy’. DMK MP T.R.Baalu from Tamil Nadu said that the government was imposing Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking States.

Discussions around Bills

In the Lok Sabha, the members of DMK and Congress raised the issue of NEET in Tamil Nadu. They stated that the party had opposed it from day one and over 30 students had committed suicide in Tamil Nadu because of NEET. Further, the Tamil Nadu State Government had passed a resolution in the Assembly against NEET and sent the same to the Tamil Nadu Governor demanding exemption for the students of Tamil Nadu from NEET and asked the central government to intervene. 

On Friday (04 February 2022), Private Member Bills were taken up in the Parliament. Population Regulation Bill, 2019 was moved for introduction by BJP MP Rakesh Sinha. It was stated in the Parliament that over 40 Private Member Bills were taken up in the Parliament on the same matter. MPs cited the possibility of sex selection, violation of human rights, and how women will be the victims of the bill if passed. 

Reports submitted

The 21st report by the Standing Committee on Energy presented the report titled ‘Financial constraints in renewable energy sector’ in which it highlighted that there is a huge gap between the required and actual investment and that it will be a gargantuan task to fill this gap which requires an enabling framework by the Government.

The Rajya Sabha’s standing committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture submitted an action taken report on the development and conservation of museums and archaeological sites. In the report, the committee noted the growing incidents of demolition of several temples of immense cultural importance by anti-social elements in certain States. It called for the development of a foolproof mechanism to stop such incidents and protect cherished cultural heritage. It called for a flawless procedure to ensure close coordination amongst the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the State Governments.

The underutilization of Nirbhaya Funds has yet again been highlighted in the action taken report on the issues related to safety of women. 

Important Questions raised 

In response to a question about e-passports, the Government stated it is planning to issue e-passports to its citizens, starting in 2022-23. It will be a combination of paper and electronic passport, which will have a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID chip) and antenna embedded which will help secure biometric data. It is also expected to facilitate ease of travel and would be in line with global best practices. 

A question on the number of female judges in the Supreme Court and High Court as against the total number of judges was also raised in the Parliament. It was stated that as of 28 January 2022, there were 4 women Judges working in the Supreme Court against the current total sanctioned strength of 34 Judges and 83 women judges working in various High Courts against the total sanctioned strength of 1098 Judges. The numbers highlight the poor representation of females in the higher judiciary. 

In response to a question on the total funds allocated for National Education Policy since its adoption for implementation, the Education Ministry replied that out of Rs. 93,224 crores earmarked for education in the last budget, only Rs. 56,567 crore was utilized as of 2 February 2022 with only less than two months left in the fiscal year. It also stated that education being a subject of the concurrent list, needs careful planning, joint monitoring, and collaborative implementation between the Centre and States. The government further stated that various schemes/projects/programmes run by the Ministry of Education are being aligned with National Education Policy 2020.

Featured Image: 2022 Budget Session

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