Crucial budget session expected to be turbulent

New Delhi, Feb 21 (Calcutta Tube) Inflation, the looming food crisis, India-Pakistan talks and the internal security situation are expected to top the agenda of debates during the budget session of parliament beginning Monday with President Pratibha Patil’s address to both houses.

While the railway and union budgets will be presented Feb 24 and 26 respectively during the session that will continue till May 7 with more than a three-week break in between, the government’s legislative agenda also includes bills pending from the previous session.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already made it known that it would raise issues like price rise, the upcoming foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan and the internal security situation in the session.

‘Apart from price rise, our party will raise the issues concerning farmers. We will want to know from the government about its sudden decision to start talks with Pakistan. We will also raise issues of terrorism and Maoist violence,’ said party leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

The Samajwadi Party that supports the government from outside has decided to oppose the increase in price of urea.

‘The government’s decision to hike urea prices by 10 percent is anti- farmer. Till now, farmers had been committing suicide, but through this decision, the government has almost imposed a death sentence on them,’ said Mohan Singh, the party’s general secretary and spokesperson.

‘We will bring in a motion against the government’s move and will also rope in UPA allies like the Trinamool Congress and the DMK (which have opposed the decision) to support us,’ he said.

Singh claimed the UPA government took the decision despite opposition from Chemical and Fertiliser Minister M.K. Alagiri, who is DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi’s son.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has also opposed the hike in the prices of urea and the reduction in fertiliser subsidy.

CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharya said issues like price rise, reduction in fertiliser subsidy and agrarian crisis will be raised.

‘We will ask for a proper discussion on Bt Brinjal, the economic situation and increasing unemployment,’ Acharia told IANS.

The Congress, the main party in the ruling UPA, said it was prepared to discuss all issues and urged the opposition parties not to disrupt the proceedings of the two houses.

Official sources said that the government intends to bring in legislation to protect whistle-blowers, adding that the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Bill may be tabled in the latter part of the budget session.

A bill to prevent harassment and prevent discrimination against HIV- positive people and for their rehabilitation is also likely to be introduced.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily has indicated that the government plans to replace the Judges Act 1968 with a Judicial Accountability and Standards law to deal with complaints of corruption in the judiciary.

The government also intends to introduce the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill that will bring about changes in the processes regulating research, transport, import, manufacture and use of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. The issue has divided the government, with ministers making public statements for and against GM food.

Several ministers in the government have been pushing for amending the land acquisition policy but the Trinamool Congress has reservations over some provisions of the bill that seeks amendments in the current policy.

Official sources said the government is also expected to make fresh efforts for the passage of the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill that provides for reserving for women 33 percent seats in parliament and state legislatures .

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