With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress setting aside the bitterness between them, the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament has been the most productive in the recent past.
According to official sources, the productivity percentage for the Lok Sabha till Thursday — the penultimate day of the session — has been near 100 per cent, while the Rajya Sabha utilised between 98-99 per cent of the allotted time.
In the process, the floor managers for the government, including Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar, have been left elated.
“Overall, it has been a good session. We had smooth sail in both houses and credit for this should go to the members,” Ananth Kumar said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu was equally delighted when he said “it has been good monsoon and also good monsoon session”.
Both Kumar and his junior colleague S.S. Ahluwalia have thanked Lok Sabha members for allowing to create a “history” on July 19 when the Lok Sabha passed The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill and The Dentists (Amendment) Bill to replace the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) ordinances.
“This is for the first time two ordinances are replaced by bills on one day and the Lok Sabha passed both the bills. This is a sort of record I have not seen in last 20 years,” Kumar said.
The beginning of the session itself saw positive signals and according to legislative data, till July 25 itself, productivity in the Lok Sabha touched over 80 per cent while in the Rajya Sabha it was about 75 per cent.
The session that began on July 18 will conclude on Friday, August 12.
The passing of 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill on Goods and Services Tax (GST), an important legislative measure in terms of reforms, was the major highlight of the session.
The Constitution amendment bill — the enabling draft legislation — for GST was on August 3 first passed by the Rajya Sabha where it was stalled since 2015. The Lok Sabha gave the nod to the Bill as passed by the Rajya Sabha, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi also making an intervention on August 8.
“The passing of the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill relating to the GST by huge consensus in the Rajya Sabha was the hallmark of the third week of Monsoon Session of Parliament,” a statement from Parliamentary Affairs ministry said.
Productivity in the Rajya Sabha seemed to be a pleasant surprise as the BJP and the main opposition Congress. Over the months the two rival sides had decided to corner each other over issues like political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh, besides alleged corruption in Haryana land deal and AgustaWestland helicopter deal.
Even a few Congress members in the Lok Sabha were amazed to see that government floor managers and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley kept backroom channel open with Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad.
On the eve of monsoon session, an FIR was filed against former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda for alleged irregularities in the allotment of land to The National Herald newspaper.
But contrary to expectations, the BJP did not rake up the issue and party bosses had even restrained controversial leaders like Subramanian Swamy from raising such contentious matters.
But some ruckus did prevail. In the Lok Sabha, members from Andhra Pradesh raised special status bogey and raised slogans in the house but it did not disturb smooth functioning of the lower house.
On July 25, the Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned for the day post lunch as Congress members insisted to have a discussion on private member’s bill on special package for Andhra Pradesh. The stalemate continued even next day.
However, better sense prevailed later and on July 27 afternoon, the upper house took up a crucial debate on price rise.
The debate on skyrocketing price rise figured again in the Lok Sabha on July 28 in the form of a general discussion under Rule 193.
Yet again in the Rajya Sabha, paving the way to establish corpus to pay for afforestation activities, the upper house also passed the Compensatory Afforestation Bill.
The Bill will ensure that a total amount of unused Rs 40,000 crore be used to establish corpus funds for afforestation programme. This law will help several states.
In the third week, the Rajya Sabha passed five more bills including the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, Dentists (Amendment) Bill, and National Institutes of Technology, and the Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill. All these bills were already passed by the Lok Sabha.
It is significant to note that the Rajya Sabha recorded a very dismal performance in last year’s monsoon session as it saw washout of proceedings in 2010-11 during the stint of Congress-led UPA in power.
For its part, the Lok Sabha also passed the Enforcement of Security, Interest and Recovery of Debts, Loss and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It also voted in full the Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) 2016-17 and passed the relevant Appropriation Bill, 2016.
During the session, the Lok Sabha also held discussions on Sustainable Development Goals, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and atrocities against Dalits.
According to sources, Lok Sabha spent about 40 per cent of time on non-legislative activities and over 48 per cent on legislative activities. Both the houses also dedicated between 15 to 20 per cent of time successfully on question hour.
Satyanarayan Jatiya, BJP member in the Rajya Sabha, thanked members from all parties for the cooperation in smooth conduct of the proceedings. “Perhaps everyone has realised that stalling parliamentary proceedings helped no body,” he said.
Besides major ministries like finance that saw passage of a number of key bills, this session will be also remembered for taking up and passing of key labour-related draft legislation.
Parliament took up important labour issues and the Lok Sabha passed bills like The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to enhance the working overtime hours up to 100 per quarter and boost manufacturing sector.
The Lok Sabha also gave its nod to The Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill 2016.
Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the new law will provide for higher compensation in case an employee is injured in industrial accident.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill seeking to prohibit employment of children below 14 years in any “profession” was also passed.
Dattatreya said the legislation was “historic” and will go a long way in curbing child labour.
Importantly, for the first time provisions have been included that would ensure that “adolescents between 14 and 18 years” cannot be employed in any hazardous work. The Rajya Sabha had already passed the bill.