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Parliament passes Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014, with Lok Sabha giving its nod to the Legislation

When the electronic voting was done, 121 members voted against the amendment in comparison to 43 members who favoured it

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Parliament,, Wikimedia

New Delhi, Dec 16, 2016: Parliament on Friday passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, with the Lok Sabha giving its nod to the legislation. It was the first bill in the winter session to be passed amid comparative bonhomie between the government and the opposition in both houses.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the Lok Sabha as the bill was passed on the last day of the session.

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The bill, which replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, has been brought in to comply with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India signed in 2007.

The legislation was pending in the Rajya Sabha since February 2014 as the term of the erstwhile UPA government ended soon after the bill was introduced. It was passed by the upper house earlier this week.

Piloting the bill in the lower house, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said the bill will increase reservations for the disabled persons to 4 per cent.

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“There will be 21 categories instead of seven earlier to cover all disabilities. Medical and education facilities are also given. No Divyangs (disabled) will be left out,” he said.

Most Congress members, including the party leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, were missing from the house as the bill was tabled as they went for a meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on the demonetisation issue.

Congress member K.C. Venugopal, who was present in the house and participated in the debate, also used it as an opportunity to speak on demonetisation.

“Since 16th (November) we are trying to discuss the issue of demonetisation, but government is not interested,” he said.

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He then welcomed the bill but highlighted the the draft legislation did not compel private firms to give reservation to disabled persons, and it only said this should be done if it is economically viable.

As the bill was taken up for passage, amendments brought by opposition members were defeated one after the other.

However, in one of the amendments, Congress members insisted for a division.

When the electronic voting was done, 121 members voted against the amendment in comparison to 43 members who favoured it.

However, the giant screens in the Lok Sabha which were supposed to display the members’ votes according to the seating plan faced a malfunction, and could not display the result.

This was used by the opposition as an opportunity to take a dig at the ruling party.

As the Prime Minister was sitting in the house, members from the Congress said that “Digital India has failed”, and “it failed in front of Mr. Digital”.

Another member from the opposition benches said: “It’s condition has become like an ATM.”

The bill was finally passed by voice vote, soon after which the house was adjourned sine die. (IANS)

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Indian Parliament Imposes Ban on E-Cigarettes

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products

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E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Pixabay

Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of E-Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha for replacing the ordinance promulgated last September.

Replying to members on the Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged them to pass the legislation unanimously in the larger interest of the children.

“There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the intention of the government has been to nip the problem in the bud itself,” the minister said.

While most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes, some of the MPs wanted to know why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.

Many opposition members also expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

On why all tobacco products are not being banned, Harsh Vardhan said that he would be the happiest person if that happens.

“You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is in fact very, very difficult to ban it,” the minister said.

On the reasons for bringing the ordinance, the minister said that apart from other things, some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.

E-Cigarettes
Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. Wikimedia Commons

“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” he said.

Participating in the discussions, Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco products as all of them were harmful to human health.

“Of course, by this Bill we are preventing a person from committing suicide by jumping from the fifth floor, but we are also keeping the more affordable and accessible 10th floor wide open to jump from,” Sen said to highlight the serious health concerns posed by conventional cigarettes.

The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic.

“Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times,” the Trinamool leader said.

Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad said that he did not support e-cigarettes but opposed the way the Bill had been brought. He also suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly.

“People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” Hariprasad said while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.

He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists.

Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam also raised questions around the manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation.

Replying to members on the Bill, Harsh Vardhan said that all his life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said that the ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context.

“A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in criminalisation of the society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with the underground activity,” Gowda said while participating in the discussions on the bill.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. This also includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products.

“Any comparison about their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely an emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” the minister said.

E-Cigarettes
The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that Apart From E-Cigarettes, a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic. Pixabay

Highlighting the harmful effects of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes, the minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department.

“Recently, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Therefore, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide. That is the latest about nicotine.

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“It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world,” Harsh Vardhan said. (IANS)