The Lok Sabha took up the No-Confidence motion for discussion. In the meanwhile, many important bills were passed in both houses including the ‘Digital Personal Data Protection, Bill 2023’ without much discussion.
When the parliament is in session, we review the important developments including bills, debates, questions & answers, and reports submitted, of the past week in both the Houses of the Parliament- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This year’s monsoon session of the 17th Lok Sabha began on 20 July 2023. The session was scheduled for over three weeks, until 11 August 2023. As the Parliament Session concludes this week, we look at the important developments in the last week of the monsoon session. The reviews of the first and second weeks of the session can be read here and here.
The week began with the reinstatement of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to the Lok Sabha after he was disqualified on 24 March 2023 due to a conviction in a criminal defamation case filed by a BJP leader. The Supreme Court had stayed his conviction in the case. His return to Lok Sabha was at a crucial time as the House started discussing the no-confidence motion moved against the government, the next day. The no-confidence motion was moved to initiate discussion on the ethnic clashes in Manipur. In the first two weeks of the session, both Houses were disrupted multiple times over the same issue. MPs also took a jab at the absence of the Prime Minister from the Parliament during the entire session except on the last day of no-confidence motion.
The first no-confidence motion against the NDA government during the current 17th Lok Sabha term was moved by the Deputy leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi amidst the opposition’s ongoing protests demanding a statement on the situation in Manipur from the Prime Minister. The Home Minister, Amit Shah delivered a two-hour long speech on 09 August 2023 in which he spoke about the reduction in Left Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the country since NDA formed the government 9 years back. He appealed to both Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur to shun violence and hold talks with the Government. He added that he was holding separate talks with members of both communities.
On 10 August 2023, the last day allotted for the discussion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the House and spoke for more than 2 hours. In his speech, he stated that the entire country was with the people of Manipur and that efforts were underway by central and state governments to punish the accused in Manipur. “The crimes against women in Manipur are unforgivable”, he said.
Most of his speech was directed against the opposition, mainly the Congress. Asserting that NDA and BJP will again win the 2024 elections, the Prime Minister added that Congress was responsible for most of the problems in the northeast region. He also mentioned that the opposition was never interested in discussing the Manipur issue and that they should have participated with more seriousness in the session and taken part in discussions when key legislations were passed during the session.
Further, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was suspended from Lok Sabha over alleged deliberate and repeated misconduct and the matter has been referred to the Privileges Committee. The resolution for suspension of the Congress leader in Lok Sabha was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi. The House adopted the resolution by voice vote.
Bills introduced and passed
Since the session began, over 20 Bills were cleared by Parliament in the first two weeks of sitting. Many of these were passed in the second week despite strong opposition to initiating the discussions after moving the no-confidence motion instead of continuing with the legislative business. Amidst the opposition, several Bills were introduced and passed in both Houses in the last week as well.
The Anusandhan National Research Foundation Bill, 2023 which was introduced in the second week was passed by both the Houses this week. The Bill seeks to repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board Act, 2008 and dissolve the Science and Engineering Research Board set up under it. Instead, it provides for establishing the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (NRF) to provide strategic direction for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in fields like natural sciences including mathematics, engineering and technology, environmental and earth sciences, etc.
The Pharmacy (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was passed in the Lok Sabha. It states that any person whose name has been entered in the register of pharmacists maintained under the Jammu and Kashmir Pharmacy Act or possesses qualifications prescribed under the act shall be deemed to have entered the register of pharmacists.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 which was also introduced in Lok Sabha in the last week was passed by both the Houses this week. The bill seeks to establish a robust framework for the protection of personal data in the digital realm. The bill was passed through a voice vote in both houses without much participation by the opposition in the debate.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which empowers the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to exercise sole discretion on several matters including those recommended by the National Capital Civil Services Authority, and the summoning, prorogation, and dissolution of the Delhi Legislative Assembly was passed in the Rajya Sabha this week.
The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023 expands the scope of coastal aquaculture to include allied activities such as hatcheries and nucleus breeding centres. It also focuses on decriminalizing offences associated with coastal aquaculture activities and promotes sustainable forms of aquaculture. It was passed by both Houses this week.
The Indian Institutes of Management (Amendment) Bill, 2023, The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, 2023, The National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bill, 2023, The National Dental Commission Bill, 2023, The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and The Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023 are some other Bills passed in the Rajya Sabha this week.
Standing Committee reports & Action Taken Reports
The 182nd report on ‘Ecosystem of Startups to benefit India’ was tabled by Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce. In the report, the committee appreciated the government’s efforts for the ‘remarkable growth’ of the startup ecosystem in the country. India has become the 3rd largest startup ecosystem globally and is home to 108 unicorns, collectively valued at $340.80 billion as on 31 May 2023. The committee emphasized that the government should sustain the efforts. Further, it suggested employing advanced technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, artificial intelligence, and remote sensing to improve productivity, optimise resource utilisation, and enhance decision-making in agriculture.
The same committee also presented the 183rd report on ‘Development of Trade and Industries in Northeastern Region’ in which subjects like transport and connectivity, availability of land, Special Economic Zone, International Infrastructure, and others were discussed to improve trade and industries in the region. Industry-wise measures such as bamboo, handicraft, and food processing have also been suggested to boost them.
Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, presented the 353rd Report on ‘Issue of Fixing of Airfares’. Among other recommendations, the committee noted that the fixing of airfares depended on various conditions which are subject to variations of the demand-supply dynamics of the market which are taken into consideration by the airlines. It opined that there should be a balance between the commercial interests of the airlines as well as the interests of the passengers. Further, it called for defining ‘reasonable profit’ drawing from the best international practices.
Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice presented its 138th report on ‘Judicial Processes and their Reform‘ in which it observed that there was a ‘diversity deficit’ and opined that while making recommendations for appointments to the Higher Judiciary, both the Supreme Court and the High Court Collegiums should recommend an adequate number of women candidates and candidates from the marginalized sections of the society including minorities.
Some other department-related parliamentary standing committee reports presented this week are ‘Review of Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram (RYSK)’ and ‘Action Taken by the Government on the Recommendations/ Observations contained in the Three Hundred Thirty Fifth Report on Reforms in the Education of Performing and Fine Arts’ by the Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports, ‘Construction of Road-Over Bridges (ROBs), Road-Under-Bridges (RUBs), Service Roads and Review of Road Survey Guidelines etc.’ by the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, etc.
Responses to Questions
A question regarding the details of the water losses in the reservoirs was asked in the Lok Sabha and measures were taken to reduce it. As per the response, the average annual reservoir evaporation (30 years average) is 27,510 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) based on the Central Water Commission (CWC) report on “Reassessment of Water Availability in India using Space Inputs -2019”.
In response to another question on the performance of BSNL, the Ministry of Communications responded that the loss of BSNL (before exceptional items of Rs.1499 Crores) for the financial year 2022-23 was Rs. 6,662 crores, a 4.5% improvement over 2021-22. Further, it added that with the measures taken by the government, BSNL’s expected to turn around with a net profit in 2026-27.
The e-waste generated in the country increased from 1.014 million tonnes in 2019-20 to 1.6 million tonnes in 2021-22, according to the Ministry of Environment’s response in the Rajya Sabha. While e-waste generation has increased, the share of e-waste collected, dismantled, and recycled has increased from 22.07% to 32.92% during the same period.
In response to a question seeking data on the number of stolen Indian antiquities that have been brought back to India during the last two decades, the Ministry of Culture responded that a total of 324 antiquities were brought back during 2003-2023. The majority of these were from the USA. Since 2020 alone, a total of 291 antiquities were retrieved.