Last Week in Parliament
During the Monsoon Session of Parliament that began on August 5 and scheduled to last till September 6 after having been extended by a week, the Government hoped to pass 43 bills and to introduce 25 new bills.
Even though the monsoon session saw repeated adjournments in both the houses over the shadow of Telangana, a handful of bills have been passed by the Upper House and the Lower House of the Parliament.
National Food Security Bill
The debate on the Bill lasted over nine hours with a grand total of 318 amendments raised to the Bill. The Bill seeks to provide for food and nutritional security by providing specific entitlements to certain groups.
The Land Acquisition Bill
This Bill moved another step closer to becoming a law with Rajya Sabha approving the legislation which seeks to provide fair and just compensation to farmers and to those who lose livelihood on account of acquisition.
The new law will apply to all Special Economic Zones to be set up from now onwards, the Government said while rejecting apprehensions over it, saying states were free to improve upon it by even raising the requirement of consent from 80 per cent to 100 per cent.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, which got the nod of Lok Sabha last week, was passed by the Upper House by 131-10 votes with four new official amendments, proposed by the opposition parties, including the BJP.
The Bill will go back to Lok Sabha for approval of the new amendments, which include dilution of the retrospective clause with regard to acquisition of land for irrigation projects.
The Bill, which will replace over a century-old law, stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private companies. It proposes compensation up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas.
Replying to a six-hour debate, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh sought to address the concerns over the ‘urgency clause’ in the bill, saying it is for use only in case of natural calamities and national security and cannot be invoked in case of land acquisition for private parties.
Giving details about the Bill the Rural Development Minister said the new law provides for compensation not only to the farmers but also to the landless people who may lose their livelihood.
Devaluation of Rupee
When all opposition parties raised the concern over the devaluation of Rupees. The PM gave a statement on current economic situation in the country on August 30. In 2010-2011 and the years prior to it, our current account deficit was more modest and financing it was not difficult, even in the crisis year of 2008-09. Since then, there has been a deterioration, mainly on account of huge imports of gold, higher costs of crude oil imports and recently of coal. On the export side, weak demand in our major market has kept our exports from growing. Exports have been further hit by a collapse in iron ore exports. Taken together, these factors have made our current account deficit unsustainably large.
We must realise that part of this depreciation was merely an adjustment. Inflation in India has been much higher than in advanced economies. Therefore, it is natural that there has to be a correction in the exchange rate to account for this difference. To some extent, depreciation can be good for the economy as this will help to increase our export competitiveness and discourage imports.
Even while we go about doing what is necessary, it is important to recognise that the fundamentals of the Indian economy continue to be strong. India’s overall public-debt to GDP ration has been a declining trend from 73.2 per cent of GDP in 2006-2007 to 66 per cent in 2012-13. Similarly, India’s external debt is only 21 per cent of GDP and while short-term debt has risen, it stands at 5.2 per cent of GDP. Our forex reserves stand at US$278bn, and are more than sufficient to meet India’s external financing requirements.
Missing files of coal blocks
PM gave a statement about missing files with “regard to the papers pertaining to the ongoing investigation into the allocation of coal blocks. “I would like to emphasise that the Government is making all efforts to locate the papers requisitioned by the CBI,” the PM said.
To explain BJP’s position a statement was issued by Smt Sushma Swaraj and Shri Arun Jaitley jointly. The Government must register a First Information Report with regard to the stolen/missing documents. The Government must also explain why the same has not been done till date.
Governors (Emoluments, Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Bill, 2012
Then another Bill was passed for the benefit of ex-Governors. The Bill seeks to provide certain other pension and post-retirement benefits to ex-governors. The Bill amends the Act to provide that the ex-Governor shall be entitled to one personal assistant for the rest of his life.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2012
The Bill amends the Scheduled Castes Order, 1950 to insert certain groups as Scheduled Castes in the states of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Tripura as well as to omit Entry 3 of the Schedule to the Constitution (Sikkim) Scheduled Castes Order, 1978.
Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2012
The ‘Marati’ community is being re-included in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Kerala. Scheduled Tribe status is being granted to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups namely ‘Abujh Maria’ and ‘Hill Korwa’ in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh.
The Government also wanted to amend the Right to Information Act to exclude political parties from its ambit, after the Central information Commission said political parties are public authorities under it and should appoint information officers to dispense information. But it was referred to standing committee for ‘elaborate study’.