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Opposition vs. Government: The Parliament faces heavy storms during its monsoon session

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

The dead-locks and stand-offs

The monsoon session of the Parliament has become the battleground between the Government and the Congress-led opposition parties. With crucial Bills at hand, the number of deadlocks in the house is constantly on the rise. After the washout of the first week, the session resumed on Monday, promising a continuation of the stand- off between the Modi government and the opposition, especially Congress and the left parties.

Picture credit: indianexpress.com
Picture credit: indianexpress.com

The session that began on July 21 continues till August 13. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before its commencement, said to the media that he hoped for a fruitful monsoon session in which MP’s would contribute towards making good decisions.

However, it seems that the opposition has no intention of cooperating with the current government as they continue the second week of the session with heels dug into controversies surrounding BJP.

On the first day itself, Rajya Sabha witnessed vociferous discussions on controversies related to Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the Vyapam scam. The house proceedings were disrupted twice and finally adjourned. The opposition demanded discussion on all issues and the immediate resignation of Sushma Swaraj who currently holds the external affairs portfolio. On the second day of the session, the opposition was seen wearing black bands and holding placards demanding Swaraj to resign. The session was adjourned till Monday.

On July 23, Rahul Gandhi, in a statement to the media said the Congress will not encourage any discussion until the resignation of the external affairs minister is confirmed. He further remarked that the Prime Minister’s credibility is on the decline as he refuses to listen to the voices of the common people.

Picture credit: indianexpress.com
Picture credit: indianexpress.com

The Prime Minister agreed to investigate the case of Swaraj but refused any discussion on Vasundara Raje and Shivnath Singh Chouhan, claiming that they are state matters.

However, the government rejected the immediate resignation of Sushma Swaraj. On the flipside, the government is now targeting Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party as a whole.

The Legislative Bills ignored?

Among such intense mud-splattering, the much needed collective effort to resolve disagreements over important bills is completely absent. The monsoon session has 10 pending Bills, 2 controversial Bills that are held up in committees, and more Bills for introduction at hand.

Before the commencement of the session, the Prime Minister had said to that he hoped for the smooth functioning of Parliament and collective effort to resolve the controversies over the Land Acquisition Bill. However, the Congress-led opposition has paralyzed the session over Lalit Modi and other BJP related controversies leading to stagnating discussions over important Bills.

Bills like the Mental Healthcare Bill (2013), Child Labour (protection and regulation) Amendment bill (2013), Prevention of Corruption (2013), and Juvenile Justice (2015) are just a few among the pending Bills that were to be discussed during the session. The monsoon session also had plans to introduce Bills like the Consumer Protection Amendment Bill (2015) and the Road Transport and Safety Bill (2015) among others. However, the highlight remains on the debatable Bills that have been held up in committees for years now, namely the Land Acquisition Bill and the Goods and Sales Tax Bills.

The Prime Minister was insistent on moving forward with the controversial Land Bill. However, the Samajwadi Party has expressed grievances with the amendments made to the bill. “A solution is possible only if the government withdraws amendments.” Samajwadi party’s Rajgopal Yadav said to the media.

A Joint Committee of the Parliament under BJP MP SS Ahluwahlia is looking into the Land Acquisition Bill and has asked for an extension of two weeks to finalize reports. The report of the committee is due for August 3 and debate on the matter till then is unlikely. In case, a consensus is not reached, the government will have to settle with an ordinance once again.

However, BJP leaders are of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with repeating ordinances. They cited examples of ordinances used twice or more by UPA government like the Securities Laws ordinance among others to support their stance.

Picture credit: hindustantimes.com
Picture credit: hindustantimes.com

Similarly, it is likely that the Goods and Sales Tax Bill will also miss its deadline of 2016 because of the face-off in Parliament. The GST Bill remains a key reform Bill, aiming for a unified national trade market. This Bill can dramatically alter the country’s tax administration by replacing a string of levies with a single tax. This is a key constituent of the government’s reform agenda.

However, after the Bill is passed, it will have to be ratified by 29 states in the same way. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh while disclosing his reservations about the GST, after the first day in session, said that the congress has no intentions of cooperating with the ruling government. “So what if we miss the GST bill? During the UPA we missed the GST twice. To us GST is good and simple tax.”

With the government and opposition continuously challenging each other, the monsoon session of the parliament has in reality become the battleground of politicians. What is being ignored are the discussions related to Bills and news of progress in this field had remained scarce. With the parliament resuming on Monday, a continuation of political chaos is expected. However, the progress that could be made regarding legislative bills still remains doubtful.

 

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PM Narendra Modi Hails India’s Position in Astronomy in Mann ki Baat

Referring to the contributions of astronomy centres in places like Pune and Ooty, the prime minister commended the strides the nation has taken in the field

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Modi advises Scientists
Prime Minister Modi tells scientists that science and technology should be used to bettering the lives of citizens. Wikimedia Commons

Speaking about the last solar eclipse of the year which happened on December 26, the prime minister Narendra Modi recalled India’s mastery over astronomy since ancient times.

In his Mann Ki Baat address to the nation, the Prime Minister mentioned the request from Ripun who hails from the northeast but is staying now in south India because of his job.

The prime minister mentioned Ripun for his request to find ways to popularise astronomy in rural areas of the country.

PM Modi
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi, India. VOA

Referring to the contributions of astronomy centres in places like Pune and Ooty, the prime minister commended the strides the nation has taken in the field.

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“The eclipse reminds us that that we are travelling in space while residing on the earth…. Friends, India has an ancient and glorious history of astronomy. Our connection with the twinkling stars in the sky is as old as our civilisation. Many of you might be aware that at various places in India, there are magnificent observatories (Jantar Mantars) – which are worth seeing. And these observatories have a deep bond with astronomy. Who doesn’t know about the prodigious talent of the great Aryabhatta,” PM said. (IANS)