Private Bills or Political Messaging; Lawmakers Push Govt Agenda
The storm in a tea cup over the would be Uniform Civil Code Bill that was to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha last week isnt the only storm that was brewing in the House. The Shiv Sena might have broken all ties with the BJP but that didn't stop MP Anil Desai from pushing for a legislation best promoted by the RSS: the two child norm policy. If last year it was BJP MP Rakesh Sinha who wanted to regulate population by introducing a similar private members' Bill, this time it Desai sought to amend the Constitution by inserting Article 47A. "The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control."
Desai's contention was that the country's population has crossed 125 crore and would surpass China by 2050.
Last week, the UCC of India Bill 2020 had created a furore with three MPs cutting across party lines demanded the Bill be withdrawn as it would lead to further communal unrest. Interestingly, Kirodi Mal Meena was absent when the Bill came up for introduction. His explanation was most BJP MPs were absent from the House and if a Division was called for, the Bill would have fallen. Party leaders insist that Meena's legislation was a solo effort and did not have approval of the leadership. Private legislation is the prerogative of the lawmaker and independent of party line.
Congress MP Husain Dalwai on the other hand has come up with a legislation that is the answer to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2020. His legislation is more in line with international conventions of the United Nations. The Bill seeks to provide an effective system to protect refugees and asylum seekers through a legal framework to determine claims for asylum and to provide for rights to such people. " The CAA bill is all wrong. There is no need to get religion in this. People come because they are persecuted politically."
Dalwai's legislation seeks asylum for anyone persecuted on basis of issues as varied as climate change, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race. India isnt a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees but the bill is framed on those lines. For instance, he says, Tibetans get asylum but Rohingyas don't and nor do tamilians of Sri lanka.
He says hes been raising the issue of refugees after seeing the plight of refugees from Pakistan living in camps in Jodhpur. "I first raised the issue when SM Krishna was foreign affairs minister but did not communalise it like the BJP does." Dalwai says the opposition's views through such Bills should be also considered by the government. "For instance, Anil Desai's two child Bill is something I support fully. "
Another pet peeve is election expenditure that Congress MP Rajeev Gowda has been raising with little effect. His Bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to lift the current expenditure of Rs 70 lakh and public funding of elections. "everyone spends much more then they claim. Setting a limit is counterproductive. Anyway, people don't always vote for a candidate who spends the maximum money," he says.
That's a subject that he has been raising unsuccessfully through several sessions of Parliament. So does it help to bring a private members bill or is it an exercise in futility. "Parliament has passed 14 such Bills to date," says Chaksu Roy of PRS Legislative. "Private Members' Bills are often a means of drawing the government's attention to important legislation or issues," he adds. The legislation thus introduced will lapse with the budget session.