Budget session witnesses battle on land bill, 24 bills passed
New Delhi, May 13 Parliament’s budget session that ended on Wednesday, finally saw the passage of a bill for operationalising land boundary agreement with Bangladesh. The session, spread over three months, saw 24 bills being passed with a spirited tussle between government and opposition on a range of issues including the land acquisition bill which was finally referred to a joint committee.
The “productive” session saw several crucial pending bills being passed including the coal mines bill, insurance laws amendment bill, mines and mineral amendment bill and black money bill, while the Goods and Services Tax bill has been referred to the select committee of the Rajya Sabha.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was in the news throughout the session – in the first half for his leave of absence, and in the second, for a new combative approach as he took on the government on a range of issues including the land bill, net neutrality, food park in Amethi and problems concerning farmers.
Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government got bills such as the land bill and GST passed in the Lok Sabha, it could not do so in the Rajya Sabha where it lacks majority.
The session, held against the backdrop of BJP badly losing the assembly elections in Delhi to Aam Aadmi Party, saw several attempts by the opposition to pin down the government. Congress and other opposition parties also repeatedly demanded that bills should be sent to standing committee and succeeded several times.
The opposition also sought answers from the government on a range of issues including release of Kashmiri separatist Masrat Alam and written reply by the home minister that the location of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, perceived to be in Pakistan, was not known. Congress and some other opposition parties sought resignation of union minister Nitin Gadkari over a Comptroller and Auditor General report concerning Purti group, of which he was a promoter.
The session, which began Feb 23, saw the Rajya Sabha being prorogued after the first half of budget session to enable promulgation of ordinance on the land bill. The upper house later met on April 23 for a new session. The session of Lok Sabha was also extended by three days to enable the government pass some key legislations including that on black money and whistleblowers bill.
The session, which began with President Pranab Mukherjee’s address, saw passage of the finance bill and the rail budget, while the demands for grants of some ministries were discussed in the second half of session.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi replied to the debate on the motion of thanks to the president’s address, refuting opposition attacks on his government on issues such as black money and land bill.
The agreement on operationalising the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh was passed by both houses unanimously. It also became the 100th Constitution amendment bill.
PRS Legislative, a research initiative which tracks work of parliament, said that the momentum of parliamentary productivity continued from last year to the budget session this year.
“At the end of the session, Lok Sabha’s productivity has been is at an all time high of 123 percent. During fag end of the session, two bills of political and economic significance, GST and land acquisition amendment were referred to parliamentary committees for detailed scrutiny and a bill to curb black money bill passed,” Ahakshu Roy, head of Outreach, PRS Legislative Research told media persons.
Many opposition parties came together on the land bill saying that changes made by the government to the 2013 land Act were “anti-farmer.” Leaders of several opposition parties marched from parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan against the bill.
The Lok Sabha twice discussed the land bill during the session before sending it to the joint committee. Congress has vowed to continue its opposition to the new bill if it was not changed in line with the 2013 Act.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu expressed satisfaction at the “high productivity” of the session but accused the opposition of attempting to disturb the scheduled business of Lok Sabha on 32 of 35 working days.
He said opposition had given notices for suspension of question hour on 20 of 32 days. In Rajya Sabha, he said, the opposition demanded adjournment of business on 15 of 32 days.
“Such demands, besides reflecting lack of seriousness and respect for the sanctity of rules, result in loss of valuable time of parliament. I hope this trend will be changed in the coming years,” he said.
The two houses passed 24 bills in the budget session, which was the best in last five years, he said.