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Parliament must function and pass key Bills, to give growth momentum
November, 22nd 2011

The government has done well to list an elaborate legislative agenda for the winter session of Parliament starting on Tuesday. The controversial Lokpal Bill to fight corruption tops the list of 32 Bills to be considered and passed by Parliament. It is politically the most significant Bill in the current context as the government is under attack both by the Opposition and civil society activists on core issues of governance.

The passage of the Lokpal Bill and the Public Interest Disclosure Bill would signal the government's acknowledgement of the trust deficit that has emerged after a series of scams and its commitment to take clear steps to remove it. The third Bill to fight corruption, the Judicial Accountability Bill, is also welcome.

It would give statutory backing to the code of conduct of judges of high courts and the Supreme Court and make them more accountable. Surely, the Opposition has the right and responsibility to raise issues to make the government accountable.

However, it must also ensure that Parliament functions. Thwarting the functioning of Parliament would mean subverting the idea of a participatory democratic system. With focus on politics, the government is not pushing for big-ticket economic legislation. Nor can it be faulted, as key Bills are pending before the Standing Committee of Finance.

These include the amendments to the Insurance Act to raise foreign direct investment in the sector to 49% from 26%, the Bill on the Direct Taxes Code and the amendment to the Constitution to institute the proposed goods and services tax (GST), by allowing states to levy tax on services and the Centre to tax goods at the retail level.

Economic Bills in this session include the Pension Bill to give statutory backing to the regulator and the Life Insurance Corporation (Amendment) Bill to raise the equity capital of the state-owned institution to Rs 100 crore from Rs 5 crore.

The Companies Bill and the National Food Security Bill feature in the list of 23 Bills slated for introduction. This is not a giant leap for Indian business, but for even this small step to actually be taken, Parliament must function and the Opposition cooperate.

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