UPA to use bills to escape winter of discontent

Many anti-graft laws in the pipeline

UPA to use bills to escape winter of discontent

The session may turn out to be tumultuous with the Opposition girding up its loins to target the scam-tainted Congress-led UPA government on contentious issues like corruption and price rise.

The Left will move an adjournment motion on price rise on which the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will finalise its strategy on Monday.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj indicated that opposition parties might join hands to attack the government on the issue.

The passage of the much-debated Lokpal bill will top the government’s agenda, with anti-graft activist Anna Hazare and his aides raising the pitch for setting up of the institution of ombudsman to probe into graft charges against public functionaries.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personal Grievance, Law and Justice is currently studying the draft bill that the government introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 4. Team Anna, which is insisting on replacing the government’s bill with its version, Jan Lokpal bill, has already put forward its views before the  panel.

The Companies Bill, 2011, Prevention of Money Laundering (amendment) Bill, Electronic Delivery of Services Bill, Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill, Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2011, National Sports Development Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill are also among the 23 new bills that the government proposed to introduce during the winter session.

The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, (also known as Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill) and Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, are among the 31 bills which were introduced earlier and are likely to be taken up.

The two proposed pieces of legislation–along with the Lokpal bill–are also part of the legal framework the government promised to strengthen its fight against graft.

The government is still in the process of seeking public opinion on the draft of the Citizen’s Right to Grievance Redress Bill, 2011, which  is expected to empower people with the right to seek action against corrupt officials at the lower level of bureaucracy.

The Transparency in Public Procurement Bill is the fifth anti-corruption law promised by the government, but it is still being drafted.

Apart from the proposed anti-corruption legislation, the UPA government is likely to make attempts to boost its declining popularity by introducing the National Food Security Bill, which seeks to legally guarantee certain quantity of highly subsidised foodgrains to the poor and underprivileged sections.

The government has introduced the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, during the last session, but it may not be taken up during the coming session. The parliamentary standing committee studying the bill is unlikely to table the report soon.

The other pending pieces of legislation to be taken up during this session include the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011, which is intended to bring reforms in the sector. 

Though the government is understood to have accepted the proposal for allowing 26 per cent foreign direct investment in the sector, it has rejected the parliamentary panel’s proposal to insert an express provision in the bill. It, therefore, has retained the right to raise or lower the cap.

The Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010, Life Insurance Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2009, and Company Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 2010, are pending.

The session also has two important financial business transactions—discussion and voting on the Second Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) and on Supplementary Demands for Grants (Railways)—for 2011-2012.

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