Monsoon Session Of Parliament To Keep Government Platter Full
Rising prices, failure at the Indo-Pak talks, honour killings, increasing Maoist violence, railway accidents are among the several issues that are bound to keep the UPA government’s platter full as the opposition targets it for what is expected to make the coming month-long Monsoon Session of Parliament from July 26 a “stormy one.”
Though the price rise did bring the left and the BJP together but with elections due in the crucial state of Bihar the ruling UPA would be making all out efforts to divide the opposition and what better than to bring the Sachar Committee report to appease the minorities and thus split the opposition unity.
The controversial Nuclear Liability Bill, which is currently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, is likely to come up for discussion and voting during the session. However, the bill could create problems for the ruling coalition for the Yadav triumvirate of JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, RJD’s Lalu Prasad and Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav are tooth and nail opposed to the bill and as they remarked that the bill can be only passed “over my dead body”.
Even though the government as usual is ready to discuss all issues on the floor of Parliament as Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram said: “the government is prepared to discuss any matter of interest and concern to the members on the floor of the house,” but it remains to be seen as to how far such discussions would go.
What would be of interest is how the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mr M Azhagiri answers members queries in Parliament with the Lok Sabha Speaker Mrs Meira Kumar working out a compromise in that the minister would read out the reply in English, while the supplementaries would be taken by his deputy Mr Srikant Jena. A curious case indeed and virtually the first of its kind in the history of Indian Parliament when the minister would not be answering to supplementaries.
It has to be seen how the Opposition specially the principle one, BJP, which has been spearheading the attack on the minister with the Leader of the Opposition Mrs Sushma Swaraj even taking exception to the absence of the minister during the Budget session would take this.
What was the excuse given? It was that the minister was not fluent enough to take questions in either English or Hindi. The session which is expected to be on till August 27 would indeed be interesting to witness since the issues such as the series of railway accidents is bound to be attacked by the left parties who would train their guns on the Railway Minister and their bête noire Mamata Bannerjee since Assembly elections are slated in West Bengal next year.
“The handling of the Railway Ministry by Ms Bannerjee is definitely a cause of concern and gives enough ammunition for the opposition specially the left parties to attack her. Coupled with, this is her comment that she need not be in Delhi after the session is also bound to irk the Opposition for it shows the utter disregard that she has for her ministry,” said an observer.
Meanwhile, the principle Opposition party, BJP, has already decided to move a motion in Lok Sabha demanding extradition of former UCC CEO Warren Anderson to India and increase in compensation for the Bhopal gas victims.
Opposition leader in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said that on the opening day of session, BJP will move a motion in the Lok Sabha under rule 184 (which entails voting) to demand scrapping of 1989 agreement for providing compensation to the victims, extradition of Anderson to India for trial and increasing compensation for the gas victims as per the latest death figure.
With the increasing numbers of honour killings, occurring almost every alternate day and the Opposition demanding stringent action against those involved, the government plans to bring a bill which would provide for deterrent punishment for honour killings.
The controversial Nuclear Liability Bill, which is currently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, is likely to come up for discussion and voting during the session. The government is also expected to table the direct taxes code in the coming session and as Revenue Secretary Sunil Mitra said: “If Parliament procedure is complete and it becomes a law, it will be implemented from April 1, 2011, when releasing the revised DTC draft. The bill would replace almost a half-a-century old Income Tax Act.”
On the proposed tax slabs, Mr Mitra said, they would be reflected in the draft legislation to be placed before Parliament. He said, the revised draft has sought to address major concerns of stakeholders. These include treatment of the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT), taxation of long-term savings, capital gains and housing loans. MAT paid by eligible companies to be computed based on profits and not on assets and retirement funds to continue to be exempt from tax on withdrawal. The government, Mitra said, had received 1,600 comments on the first draft released last year. The bill, overhauling India’s direct tax laws, will be referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament after introduction.
The Parliament panel, he said, would again consult the stakeholders. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had promised in his Budget speech to implement the new direct tax laws from next fiscal. Apart from this legislation, the government will have to face flak on the issue of caste based census since the Opposition would be keen on knowing the decision of the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Mr Mukherjee to examine the issue and give its report at the earliest.
By Sri Krishna