Caste-based census, n-liability bill generate heat on budget session’s last day (Parliament Roundup)

Posted by on May 7th, 2010 and filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Caste-based census and the nuclear liability bill generated much heat Friday on the concluding day of parliament’s budget session and it was left to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to cool tempers by saying the government would soon take a call on the headcount.

Both issues figured in the Lok Sabha, which witnessed a walk out by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left party members, who complained that the nuclear liability bill was ‘unconstitutional’.

The Rajya Sabha went into an extended lunch recess half-an-hour early, and when it reassembled, Chairman Hamid Ansari, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and other members lauded the services of 51 members who will be retiring over the next three months before adjourning sine die, as did the Lok Sabha.

Speaking in the wake of pressure on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to undertake a caste-based census, the prime minister said: ‘Home Minister (P. Chidambaram) has laid a detailed statement on the issue of Census 2011. I am aware of the views of honourable members belonging to all sections of the house. I assure you the cabinet will take a decision shortly.’

The prime minister’s statement mollified the opposition members who had forced adjournment of the house earlier after Chidambaram virtually ruled out inclusion of caste in the population count exercise.

Replying to the debate on the issue, Chidambaram insisted that the main aim of the exercise was a headcount and listed the difficulties in including caste in the list.

The members including those from the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, cutting across party lines, had been supporting the proposal arguing that data from such an exercise, particularly on other backward classes (OBCs), would help in planning welfare measures.

Opposition MPs thanked the prime minister after his statement.

The government introduced the contentious civil nuclear liability bill in the Lok Sabha Friday, the last day of the current parliament session, amid an uproar from opposition benches and a walkout by BJP and Left MPs.

The Biju Janata Dal, the Telugu Desam Party and the AIADMK also protested. However, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) did not join the protest.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, seeks to provide for civil liability for nuclear damage, the appointment of a claims commissioner and the establishment of a Nuclear Damage Claims Commission.

‘It’s contrary to articles of the constitution. It’s illegal and unconstitutional,’ BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told the house, accusing the government of acting under US pressure.

In the statement of objects and reasons in the bill, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan said ‘many countries, which are engaged in nuclear power generation are having their own legislations and some of them are party to one or other regimes’.

He said India was not party to any of the nuclear liability conventions and hence the need for the bill.

The government had deferred the tabling of the bill in the first half of the budget session in March in the face of a hostile opposition.

The passing of the legislation is one of the last remaining steps required to operationalise the 2008 India-US 123 civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Each of the two houses lost 52 percent of crucial question hours, according to an analysis of the just-concluded session done by PRS Legislative Research, a unit of the Centre for Policy Research.

Some 30 percent of the overall business time was lost due to frequent disruptions and protests by MPs.

Only six bills were passed out of the planned 27 in the session, the PRS analysis said, making it the least productive among the last eight sessions in terms of legislation.

Among the important legislations that parliament was unable to pass was the much-hyped women’s reservation bill that was cleared by the Rajya Sabha but could not find its way through the Lok Sabha.

The analysis of the findings by PRS Legislative Research points out that productive time of the Rajya Sabha was 74 percent and that of the Lok Sabha just 66 percent.

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