Both houses of parliament witnessed disruptions due to repeated adjournments during the entire second part of the budget session for 2023. The disruptions were to such an extent that there was not a single day where the house functioned for more than an hour in a day. No significant discussions took place in both houses of the parliament.
On 31 January 2023, the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, gave his maiden speech to the joint sitting of Parliament, kicking off the budget session for the year 2023. The first leg of the budget session lasted until 10 February 2023, followed by a month-long break to evaluate the budget documents. The second part of the budget session resumed on 13 March and continued till 06 April 2023.The summary of part-1 of the budget session 2023 can be read here. In this story, we look at part-2 of the budget session.
After the month-long recess, both houses resumed their business on 13 March 2023. However, both houses witnessed disruptions due to repeated adjournments during the entire second part of the session. The disruptions were to such an extent that there was not a single day where the house functioned for more than an hour in a day. No significant discussions took place in both houses of the parliament.
Several bills were introduced in the Lower House during the second part, as mentioned below.
- The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2023
- The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill (No.2), 2023
- The Appropriation Bill, 2023
The appropriation bills allow the Centre to authorize payment and appropriation of certain amounts from and out of the consolidated Fund of the UT and India.
The Inter-Services Organizations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill 2023 aims to empower the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command of Inter-services Organizations in respect of service personnel who are subject to the Air Force Act, 1950, the Army Act, 1950 and the Navy Act, 1957, who are serving under or attached to his command, for the maintenance of discipline and proper discharge of their duties, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 bill seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to exempt some categories of lands from its reach to expedite key projects. It also enables the central government to give instructions for carrying out the terms of the law. It also specifies terms and conditions, such as the requirement to plant trees as compensation for tree cutting that has been done on the land while taking the proposed act relaxations into consideration.
Interestingly, the bill was not referred to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, but to a Joint Committee consisting of 21 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha. The opposition termed this move as a tactic to enable the ‘subversion’ of the basic function of the Standing Committees.
The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023 aims to decriminalize several of the acts mentioned under the earlier 2005 Act for ease of business. Additionally, it contains a clause that prohibits the use of drugs with pharmacological effects on humans and antibiotics in coastal aquaculture. Further, it aims to improve the Coastal Aquaculture Authority’s operational procedures and promote newer, more environmentally friendly forms of coastal aquacultures, such as cage culture, seaweed culture, bi-valve culture, marine ornamental fish culture, and pearl oyster culture, all of which have the potential to add to employment opportunities.
Among these bills, both the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bills and the Finance Bill, 2023 and the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2022 are passed in Lok Sabha without much discussion. The amendment bill aims to alter the Competition Act 2002 to govern mergers and acquisitions based on the value of deals. The Standing Committee on Finance analyzed the bill and proposed several amendments which were accepted by the government.
The rest of the bills are still pending in the house.
Standing Committee Reports
Multiple Standing Committees and ministries have submitted their ‘Demand for Grants’ pertaining to various ministries in the current session. Apart from these,
- The report of Joint Committee on the Multi-State Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was presented in the Lok Sabha.
- The Standing Committee on Water Resources submitted reports on Glacier Management in the Country- Monitoring of Glaciers/Lakes including Glacial Lake Outbursts leading to flash-floods in the Himalayan Region, and Groundwater: A valuable but diminishing resource.
- The Standing Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs presented a report on the evaluation of implementation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
- The Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers submitted a report on nano-fertilizers for sustainable crop production and maintaining soil health.
- The Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas presented a report on safety and security of oil installations of public sector oil companies with specific reference to BaghJan blow-out incident.
- The Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes submitted report on ‘Review of functioning of National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSCFDC)’.
Important matters raised under Rule 377
Multiple matters of importance were mentioned by the members of the house during the session. Below are a few of them.
- P. P. Chaudhary – Regarding the requirement to establish a medical study committee to investigate the rise in cardiac arrest-related deaths following the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Vinod Kumar Sonkar- Regarding the requirement to develop a national policy for contractual workers.
- Kotagiri Sridhar – Regarding the expansion of the Agnipath-like Scheme to other government agencies.
- Naba Kumar Sarania- Regarding the requirement to establish a National Commission for Adivasi people.
- Kaushalendra Kumar- Regarding compensation for farmers who lose harvests because of untimely rains and hailstorms.
- Sunita Duggal – Regarding the creation of a plan to support the income of landless Agricultural Laborers.
- Sangeeta Kumar Singh Deo – Regarding framing of a Menstrual leave policy for working women and female students.
- Mukesh Rajput – Regarding the need to ensure the devolution of financial and administrative powers to Panchayati Raj institutions in the country.
- Aparupa Poddar – Regarding the need to establish ‘SC/ST/OBC Welfare and Grievance Redressal Committees’ in higher educational institutions.
On a question on increasing prices of essential commodities, the government shared the All-India retail average prices of 22 essential food items. The price of sunflower oil rose from Rs.114.20 in 2020 to 178.20 in 2022, increasing by 64 rupees. Similarly, Mustard oil rose from Rs. 123.30 to Rs.182, Groundnut oil rose from Rs.147 to Rs.189.20 during the same period. Among the 22 commodities, the prices of only potatoes and onions decreased during the above period.
Regarding the criminal cases against civil service officers, the Ministry responded that a total of 110 cases against 166 officers have been registered by CBI during the last five years. 35 of them are from Maharashtra alone, followed by Jammu and Kashmir with 18 and Karnataka with 14.
On Money Laundering by corporates, the government replied that the number of persons arrested by ED in the last five years (01 April 2018 to 28 February 2023) is 374, which includes the number of directors of corporates involved in money laundering. No separate data related to corporate fraud is being maintained because PMLA cases generally involve several other offences also. The number of listed companies that have not submitted financials to SEBI rose from 505 in 2018-19 to 624 in 2021-22. The percentage of the number of listed companies against whom action has not been taken by SEBI declined from 68.3 to 54.9 during the same period.
On unclaimed deposits in PSBs, the Ministry responded that the total amount of unclaimed deposits transferred to RBI by Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in respect of deposits that have not been operated for 10 years or more, was Rs. 35,012 crores, from 10.24 crore accounts.
Regarding the vacancies in pollution control boards (PCBs), the government replied that out of the 577 sanctioned in CPCB, 193 posts (33%) are vacant. Out of the total sanctioned strength of 11,103 posts in all SPCBs, 5454 (49%) posts are vacant.
A total of 30,310 URLs were given blocking directions by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology from 2018 till 15 March 2023. These include social media URLs, accounts, channels, pages, apps, web pages, websites, etc. However, no separate categorization is specified.