Parliament Session: What’s in store for the Working Class

The winter session of Parliament concluded on the 20th of December 2012. Here is report of legislative activity of interest to the workers.

Title of Bill

Particulars

Ministry

Status

LokSabha

RajyaSabha

Debate on 51% FDI in Multi Brand Retail Motion moved by opposition leaders against the Government’s  decision to allow FDI in Retail Both houses of Parliament Motion defeated by 218 for Vs 253 against Motion defeated by 109 for vs 123 against
The Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill 2012 To provide for Reservation in promotion for SC/STs Personnel, Public Grievance, and Pension Pending Passed in Winter Session 2012
The Child labour (Prohibition and Amendment) Bill To prohibit employment of children below 14 years in any form of occupation Labour and Employment To be introduced Introduced 4th Dec 2012
The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010 To incorporate the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by SC Women and Child Development Passed Sept 2012 Pending
The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill 2012 To abolish manual scavenging while providing rehabilitation for those employed as manual scavengers Social Justice and Empowerment Introduced and sent to standing committee. Report awaited To be introduced
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill 2012 To recognize street vending and provide for licence and regulated vending spaces in urban areas. Housing and Urban Development Introduced and sent to standing committee. Report awaited To be introduced

 

Debate on 51% FDI in multi brand retail:

Even though it was an executive decision to allow 51% FDI in multi brand retail companies, public outcry and the opposition from a wide range of parties including some in the UPA, forced the government to allow for a debate in both houses under rules that permitted voting. The Opposition leaders in both houses moved a motion against the governments decision on FDI in multi brand retail chains. The Government scrapped through in Lok Sabha (218 against FDI vs 253 for FDI in loksabha) with the Samajwadi (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) parties staging a walkout to bring down the effective strength of Loksabha. The motion sponsored by ArunJaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, was also defeated with the support of BSP.

FDI in multi brand retail has attracted lot of opposition especially from small retailers for fear that mega retail chains will drive them out of jobs. There has also been concerns about the impact of Mega procurement over agricultural prices and labour rates. The congress party and the government have maintained that it will increase the investment in retail trade and modernize the sector.

The government’s victory will also impact the reforms in Insurance and Pension sector, which unlike Retail requires a legislative consent and amendment to existing statues.

You can follow the discussion on FDI in Thozhillalar Koodam 

Other bills of interest

The Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012 (Reservation in promotion to SCs and STs with retrospective effect):

The constitutional amendment bill was promulgated to overcome the hurdle caused by Supreme Court verdict on reservation for SC/STs in promotion. The SC had maintained that unless the government stipulate who are backward, and also clearly establish that such reservations will not affect the efficiency of work, it cannot implement the said policy. The Government has moved the amendment bill that stipulates that all SC/STs are backward and nullifies the clause that requires the test of efficiency.

This amendment bill, which is opposed primarily by the Samajwadi Party, was Introduced in the Rajya Sabha in September 2012, and was passed by the Rajya Sabha in the winter session will overwhelming majority. But due to disruption of Lok Sabha, in which an SP member snatched the copy of the bill from the hands of minister, it was not passed in the present session.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2012:

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, had outlawed employment of children under 14years in ‘hazardous’ occupations. The proposed amendment intends to outlaw employment of children below 14 years in any occupation while adding the clause that allows for employment on of children between 14 – 18 age group (defined in the bill as ‘adolescents’) in non-hazardous occupations.

This bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the current session and is pending before the house.

The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010:

This bill intends to incorporate the 1997 Supreme Court guidelines on dealing with Sexual Harrassment at work place (popularly called the Vishaka Guidelines) into a legislative frame work and to institutionalise the guidelines. The bill introduced in Lok Sabha in 2010, 13 years after the court set the guidelines, was passed without debate by the loksabhain Sept 2012. This bill has been critiqued by activists and legal experts as having very pertinent issues. Some of which are that its stipulation of punishment for motivated and wrong complaints which might have a discouraging influence on women to lodge a complaint, the manner of appointment of the committee at the workplace, the exclusion of domestic maids from the legislation through the definition of workplace, as also the women centric nature of the bill as against a gender neutral position.

This bill is pending before the Rajya Sabha.

The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation bill 2012:

This bill that intends to improve upon the 1993 Act against manual scavenging was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the last session (Sept 2012) and was referred to the Standing committee on Social Justice and Empowerment. The Committee was supposed to send in its recommendations within 3 months. The committee that had hearing from the ministry in November and also from the SafaiKarmachariAndolan in December 2012, is yet to present its report. The Bill is pending before the lower house.

You can follow the debates around this bill in Thozhilalar Koodum

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill 2012

A central legislation to regulate and also provide a legal basis for street vendors has been proposed and introduced in the previous session of parliament. This bill intends to provide a legal guarantee to street vendors, while regulating street vending through establishment of licences, vending zones etc. This bill has been proposed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development which has been working towards a Street Vending policy for many years. This was also one of the key demands of National organizations of Street Vendors, though some have criticisms about the bill in the current form.

The Bill has been forwarded to the standing committee and the report is awaited. The bill is pending before the Lok Sabha

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