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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Parliament Session Day 6: LS clears Taxation bill; fierce debate on PM Cares fund; and more

Here are the top developments on the sixth day of Parliament.

By: Express Web Desk | Updated: September 19, 2020 10:44:18 pm

On the sixth day of the Parliament session, Lok Sabha passed a Taxation bill that seeks to provide various reliefs in terms of compliance requirements for taxpayers amid the coronavirus pandemic. The reliefs include extending deadlines for filing returns and for linking PAN and Aadhaar. The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, will replace the Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020, promulgated in March.

It also passed a bill to further amend the Companies Act and decriminalise various non-compoundable offences and promote ease of doing business.  Aside from this, three other bills—The Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020, The Industrial Relations Code, 2020, The Code On Social Security, 2020— were introduced.

A host of other issues including the PM Cares fund was discussed in the house. Defending the fund, Minister of State, Finance, Anurag Thakur said that PM Cares Fund is transparent and will be audited by the same group that audits the PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF). “Nobody is forced to donate to this fund,” he added.

In the Rajya Sabha, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed. Moving the bill, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “IBC is such a critical part of business now. On the NPAs of scheduled commercial banks, I just want to highlight how IBC is actually serving the purpose. The priority is to keep companies to be a going concern rather than liquidate them.”

The House also passed The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — legislation that provides for up to five years in jail for those attacking doctors and healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak or during any situation akin to the current pandemic.

Meanwhile, amid intensifying scare of Covid-19 spread in the premises of the Parliament building, MPs in the Lok Sabha have reached a consensus to curtail the ongoing Monsoon Session. With the treasury benches insisting on passing the bills listed and the opposition seeking debates on crucial issues, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla is expected to take a final decision on the dates to wind up the session. The monsoon session, which started on September 14 with several firsts and unprecedented protocols against Covid spread, was scheduled to end on October 1.

Here are other developments from parliament on Day 6: 

Opposition parties question setting up of PM CARES Fund, allege it lacks transparency

Members of opposition parties like the Congress, DMK and the TMC on Saturday opposed in Lok Sabha the setting up of the PM CARES Fund, alleging that it lacked transparency.

“I can’t understand the logic to have a separate fund. What is the difference between the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund and the PM CARES Fund,” said N K Premachandran (RSP), who initiated the debate on The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.

Mahua Moitra (TMC) too opposed the Bill. She said the PM CARES Fund is against public interest as it is not answerable to Parliament even though it collects funds from the public. She said that 38 public sector companies contributed Rs 2,100 crore to the Fund. This is 70 per cent of the total corpus, she said, adding it should therefore be answerable to Parliament. She also alleged that the Fund got money from Chinese firms like Tik Tok banned by India and wondered why the government did not return the donations from such companies. Moitra questioned the need to institute a new fund (PM Cares Fund) when one already exists.

Govt proposes allowing cos with not less than 300 workers to fire staff without its nod

Companies having not less than 300 workers will soon be allowed to hire and fire workers without seeking prior government permission, with the labour ministry proposing changes to rules in a bill introduced in Lok Sabha on Saturday. The proposal, which was the bone of contention between the ministry and trade unions, is part of the Industrial Relation Code Bill 2020.

Currently, only those industrial establishments with less than 100 employees are permitted to hire and fire their staff without permission of the government. The bill was introduced by Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar amid opposition from Congress and few other parties. The Industrial Relation Code Bill 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha last year and subsequently sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. This bill was withdrawn on Saturday.

If talks can happen with China, why not with other neighbour: Abdullah in LS

Speaking in Parliament for the first time since his release from detention, the National Conference president and MP Farooq Abdullah on Saturday advocated talks with Pakistan, saying if India can talk to China to defuse their border row, it can also speak to its other neighbour to deal with the situation at Jammu and Kashmir borders.

“Border skirmishes have been rising and people are dying… A way has to be found to deal with this. Except for talks… As you are talking to China to attempt that it withdraws (from Ladakh border), we should also talk to our (other) neighbour to find a way to get out of this situation,” he said.

Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir has not seen any progress and spoke about authorities blocking 4G facilities in the Union Territory which, he added, goes against the interest of students and traders.

Govt should engage with int’l media to build pressure on Pakistan: Demand in RS

A demand for the government escalating its engagements with the international media to build a global opinion against Pakistan for sponsoring cross-border terrorism and harbouring fugitives such as Dawood Ibrahim was made in the Rajya Sabha

Through a Zero Hour mention, Sasmit Patra of the BJD said the government should also engage with the G-8 nations to increase international pressure on Pakistan just like its engagement with the US that reflected in the recent Indo-US joint asking Pakistan to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist activities.

No decision on selling only ‘Made in India’ products in military canteens: Govt

The defence ministry has not taken any decision on selling only “Made in India” products in military canteens run by it across the country, the government said. “No decision has been taken in this regard,” Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said in Rajya Sabha.

He was replying to a question on whether the defence ministry will consider using and selling only “Made in India” products in its stores in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on self-reliance and “vocal for local”.

In an address to the nation in May, Modi spoke extensively on the need to focus on a “self-reliant India” and called for promoting products made in India with a larger aim of making Indian economy stronger.

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