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This article is more than 1 year old.

Yearender 2020: Probably the only house COVID-19 didn't have impact - Indian Parliament

Yearender 2020: Probably the only house COVID-19 didn't have impact - Indian Parliament
India's bicameral legislature comprises the President of India and the two houses: the Upper House and the Lower House. The two houses that were not hit by the pandemic, as shown by the productivity percentage.
The monsoon session of parliament was truncated eight days ahead of schedule, yet it was the most productive session in history. Even though the houses sat for only 10 sessions, they passed 25 bills, maintaining the productivity of 167 percent.
In 2020, either house passed 41 bills; here's a look at the bills passed by Rajya Sabha in 2020: 
A. Home Affairs
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020
  • Passed in RS: September 23, 2020
    Summary: This bill will include Kashmiri, Hindi, and Dogri in the list of official languages of J&K.
    How it impacts you: 53.26 percent of the residents in the state speak Kashmiri, even though English and Urdu are existing official languages.
    The other side of the story: Hasnain Masoodi, former High Court Judge and a politician, said Centre does not have the legislative competence to frame a bill in this matter. He said no other state has five official languages. Sikh and Gujjar committees opposed the exclusion of Punjabi and Gojri from the bill.
    • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020
    • Passed in RS: September 23, 2020
      Summary: This bill seeks to amend the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010. FCRA suggests that a person could accept foreign contributions if they have obtained a registration certificate or prior permission from the central government. As per the new amendment, NGOs seeking prior permission or registration must mandatorily furnish Aadhaar numbers for all their stakeholders.
      How it impacts you: Government aims to make foreign contributions transparent.
      The other side of the story: Experts argue that several of the new amendments are not in line with the bill's objectives. Furthermore, it is not clear how the bill will achieve its goals.
      • The Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020
      • Passed in RS: September 18, 2020
        Summary: The bill proposes to reduce the salaries of ministers by 30 percent for a year to make for the financial resources required to battle the pandemic.
        How it impacts you: The bill takes taxpayers' money from MPs to supplement the financial resources of the Centre to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
        The other side of the story: Experts say that the reduction is barely likely to impact the financial resources.
        • The Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020
        • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
          Summary: The bill establishes Rashtriya Raksha University in Gujarat. The aim is to establish a multi-disciplinary university powered by research and collaboration to fulfill the need for a pool of skilled professionals with specialized expertise in the police training system.
          How it impacts you: Students will get access to training, research, extension, and education system in police sciences, including coastal policing and cybersecurity.
          • The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020
          • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
            Summary: The bill seeks to establish a National Forensic Sciences University as an institution of national importance. The University seeks to promote research and studies in Forensic Sciences.
            How it impacts you: Students interested in forensic science research, along with applied The bill will benefit behavioral science studies, law, criminology.
             
            B. Labour and Employment
            • New Labour Laws 2020
            • Passed in RS: September 23, 2020
              Summary: The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code aims to consolidate and amend laws regulating occupational safety and working conditions of employers.
              The Industrial Relations Code seeks to consolidate and amend the laws concerning trade unions, employment conditions in industrial establishments or undertaking, investigating, and settlement of industrial disputes.
              The Code on Social Security will amend and consolidate laws relating to social security. The code will also extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organized or unorganized sectors.
              How it impacts you: Government has amalgamated 29 labor laws into four codes. The codes aim to give equal footing to both permanent and contractual employees by improving the working conditions of contractual workers. Further, re-skilling will be an important priority now.
              The other side of the story: A long development period awaits the codes. Their full implementation at the state level is yet to begin, and the institutional and logistical support remains under-developed.
               
              C. Finance
              • The Appropriation (No. 3 and 4) Bills
              • Passed in RS: September 23, 2020
                Summary: The appropriation bill is a money bill that allows the government to withdraw money from India's Consolidated Fund to meet its expenses.
                Bill No. 4 authorizes payment and appropriation of sums out of India's Consolidated Fund, while Bill No. 3 provides authorization for bill no. 4.
                How it impacts you: Government appropriates money in its budget-making processes. It tells us how and where the government is allocating money. The government can withdraw the funds only after receiving approval from the parliament.
                The other side of the story: The bills were passed without any discussion with a voice vote.
                • The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020
                • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
                  Summary: The bill seeks to provide relief to taxpayers in terms of compliance requirements amid the pandemic. The relief includes date extension for linking PAN and Aadhaar and deadlines for filing returns. The bills also exempt contributors of PM Cares Fund from tax.
                  How it impacts you: Taxpayers can seek relief in terms of compliance requirements under the GST and Income Tax Act amid the pandemic.
                  The other side of the story: Congress Members argued that the government could invoke the clause of force majeure to defer GST payment to states. Further, Congress and TMC members said that PM CARES fund be abolished.
                  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020
                  • Passed in RS: September 19, 2020
                    Summary: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code replaces the previous ordinance initiated in June 2020 this year. The bill has temporarily suspended the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).
                    How it impacts you: The IBC aims to keep companies as "going concerns."
                    The other side of the story: The bill transfers the burden of NPAs to public sector banks.
                    • The Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill, 2020
                    • Passed in RS: September 23, 2020
                      Summary: The bill seeks to provide a legal framework for bilateral netting of qualified financial contracts (QFC). QFC are instruments of Over the Counter (OTC) market.
                      How it impacts you: Investors in the OTC market can now club multiple transactions into one. The law aims to simplify the financial product and derivative market in the country. Post-enactment, OTC derivatives will come under the legal net. The law will also reduce credit exposure leading to increased capital savings and reduced fund requirements for margins.
                      • The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                      • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
                        Summary: The banking regulation bill brings cooperative banks under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of India.
                        How it impacts you: The act aims to protect the depositors of cooperative and small banks.
                        The other side of the story: The bill allows RBI to restructure or amalgamate a bank without putting it under moratorium. However, the bill also puts banks under the Centre's supervision as opposed to states.
                        • The Finance Bill, 2020
                        • Passed in RS: March 23, 2020
                          Summary: Finance Bill is a money bill with a memorandum that contains explanations of the provisions included in it.
                          How it impacts you: The government amended the tax structure and proposed to levy new taxes. The new bill has also abolished dividend distribution tax and deducted inter-corporate dividends.
                          The other side of the story: The bill was passed through a voice vote without discussion amid ruckus in the House.
                          • The Direct Tax Vivid Se Vishwas Bill, 2020
                          • Passed in RS: March 13, 2020
                            Summary: The bill seeks to provide a mechanism for resolving pending tax disputes related to income and corporation tax in a speedy manner.
                            How it impacts you: Taxpayers don't have to fight a case of direct tax disputes endlessly. The government expects to raise Rs 90 000 crore from the scheme.
                            The other side of the story: Congress Leaders argued that this was the government's way of imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speakers. In her speech, the finance minister addressed the scheme in its English translation, saying the name has nothing to do with language.
                             
                            D. Health and Family Welfare
                            • The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                            • Passed in RS: September 19, 2020
                              Summary: The bill seeks to punish people who attack health workers fighting the current pandemic or similar situations.
                              How it impacts you: The law protects health workers from treating COVID-19 patients against violence. The punishment includes a penalty and a jail term of up to seven years.
                              The other side of the story: Opposition argued that the bill was brought in haste as specific provisions deviate from criminal law.
                              • The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020
                              • Passed in RS: September 16, 2020
                                Summary: The bill seeks to establish a state-of-the-art Ayurvedic institution in Gujarat, called the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA). The new institute will be formed after merging existing institutes.
                                How it impacts you: The act will develop a state-of-the-art Ayurveda and Pharmacy for providing high standards of education to the interested students.
                                The other side of the story: Proper enactment will provide autonomy to the Institute to develop patterns of teaching in under- and post-grad education of Ayurveda and Pharmacy.
                                 
                                E. Agricultural and Farmers Welfare
                                • Farm bills 
                                • Passed in RS: September 20, 2020
                                  Summary: The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill allows inter- and intra-state trade of farm produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets. State governments have been banned from levying market fees or cess outside APMC areas.
                                  The Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill provides a national framework on farming agreements that protect and empower farmers to engage with agri-business firms and processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for farm services.
                                  The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill allows economic agents to freely stock food articles without fear of being prosecuted for hoarding.
                                  How it impacts you: The Agri bills will allow farmers to sell their produce outside APMCs. They aim to promote barrier-free inter, and intra-state trade of farm produce, ideally, without threatening the current structure. The second bill lets the farmers enter into a direct contractual agreement with buyers to eliminate intermediaries and boost their income.
                                  The Essential Commodity bill aims to reduce fears among private investors of interference in their operations. The bill is meant to attract even more investment into the agriculture sector and the infrastructure like cold storage and supply chain.
                                  The other side of the story: The law has stirred controversy among the farmers. They are worried that the bills will lead to the privatization of the agriculture industry. Only big traders and giant companies will operate in markets and sell produce at incidental prices.
                                  Farmers are demanding a comprehensive Act on MSP applicable to the entire country and crops. However, instead of bringing legislation, the government gives a written assurance that has no legal guarantee.
                                  Farmers are also opposing the Power Bill, saying that Centre wants to discontinue subsidies to farmers by bringing the power sector under its control. They said power subsidy in cash is not possible for small and marginal farmers who can't pay their bills first and then avail assistance.
                                  The Essential Commodity bill elicited protests as hoarding might lead to an increase in prices when there's a shortage. Farm organizations believe this law is anti-human and will jeopardize food security. The government has not offered any argument to defend its decision on this bill. Experts insist that is bill is long overdue and will revolutionize the industry.
                                   
                                  F. Parliamentary Affairs Ministry
                                  • The Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                  • Passed in RS: September 18, 2020
                                    Summary: The bill aims to reduce salary for one year by 30 percent to meet the pandemic's exigencies.
                                    How it impacts you: Economy was affected by the lockdown, and this is one of the critical decisions government took to deal with the crisis. They have also suspended the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years. (The scheme allows MPs to recommend development programs of Rs 5 crore every year.)
                                    The other side of the story: While the opposition supported government's decision to cut salaries, they demanded the restoration of MPLADS.
                                     
                                    G. Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy Ministry
                                    • The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                    • Passed in RS: September 18, 2020
                                      Summary: The bill seeks to amend the Homeopathy Central Council Act, 1973, by setting up a central council of Homeopathy to regulate homoeopathy education and practice. The bill aims to increase the time for the superseding existing Central Council of Homeopathy from two years to three years.
                                      • The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 Passed in RS: September 18, 2020
                                      • Summary: The bill seeks to suspend its operations and reconstitute the council within one year of its supersession date. The Institute would regulate the education and practice of the Indian medicine system, including Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy.
                                        The law also amends the existing regulation to allow Ayurveda PG students to practice general surgery.
                                        The other side of the story: Millions of doctors in the country went on a day-long strike against the Ayurveda practitioners performing surgical procedures. Doctors criticized the bill saying it "trivializes the medical profession." IMA said it does not "allow its members to teach modern medicine to students of other systems," so it's not in favour of the opposite.
                                        H. Corporate Affairs
                                        • The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                        • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
                                          Summary: The bill proposes to amend many sections leading to the decriminalization of several non-compliance and defaults.
                                          How it impacts you: The amendments aim at improving the ease of doing business and reduce the compliance burden on companies. Penal provisions for certain administrative non-compliances were too harsh. At times, due to these provisions, many professionals were reluctant to accept key governance positions. The relaxations would enable management to focus on business and balance the compliance burden with management.
                                           
                                          I. Others
                                          • Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                          • Passed in RS: September 22, 2020
                                            Summary: The bill seeks to declare the five IIITs in public-private partnership mode at Bhopal, Surat, Bhagalpur, Agartala, and Raichur as institutes of national importance. The bill will grant these five institutes along with existing 15 IIITs a statutory status.
                                            • The Minerals Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                            • Passed in RS: March 12, 2020
                                              Summary: The bill aims to promote ease of doing business in the coal and mining sector. The amendment also allows companies with no prior experience in mining to bid for mines in India. The law will be counter-productive to India's target of cleaning up coal and reducing its consumption by 2030.
                                              • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020
                                              • Passed in RS: September 9, 2020
                                                Summary: The bill seeks to convert aviation agencies like Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil aviation security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) into statutory bodies. Post-implementation, any violation under the act will attract heavy penalties.
                                                • The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2020
                                                • Passed in RS: March 23, 2020
                                                  Summary: The bill authorizes the payment of appropriation of certain sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of Jammu and Kashmir in FY 2019-20.
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