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Today’s Talk on Editorials November 23, 2017- Civils360

Time to Change the House Rules- The Hindu

Background:  Political compulsions and legislative demands have time and again resulted in deviations from the conventional three-session calendar.Typically, winter session begins around the middle of November, extending three to four weeks.The government is yet to finalise the dates. The Indian parliament does not have a fixed calendar of sittings. Furthermore, it does not have the power to convene itself. The constitution only mandates that ‘six months shall not intervene’ between the last sitting of one session and the first sitting of the next.The power to summon parliament rests with the executive.

  • The key roles of Parliament include the lawmaking and financial functions of Parliament which is primarily to examine and endorse government proposals.Parliament also has the important role of holding the government to account for its actions.
  • The parliamentary system provides a collective responsibility on the government through daily assessment by members in the form of supplementary, oral questions, resolutions, no-confidence motions, adjournment motions and debates on addresses. This is an advantage over the Presidential system where accountability cannot be ensured on a day to day basis.
  • Parliament has met for just 65-75 days per year in the last couple of decades whereas, in the initial years of our Republic, Lok Sabha sat for about 125-140 days a year. Consequently, there is less scrutiny of the government’s actions, and even that of bills and budgets.
  • The structural issue behind the functioning of Parliament is the role of government deciding when to summon the legislature, and its ability to adjust the dates in response to emerging circumstances.
  • A simple solution for the issue is to have a calendar of sittings announced at the beginning of each year. This would help members and others plan better for the whole year. Alternatively, Parliament can be held year – long as British Parliament. Hence, such innovative solutions are necessary to ensure that key institutions such as Parliament and State legislatures are able to perform their roles more effectively.

A wilful negligence- The Indian Express

Background: The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, was setup for the welfare of farmers. It focused on causes of farmer distresses and the rise in farmer suicides, and recommends addressing them through a holistic national policy for farmers. NCF recommended that “Agriculture” be inserted in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.It also found out that land reforms are necessary to address the basic issue of access to land for both crops and livestock, recommends comprehensive set of reforms to enable farmers to have sustained and equitable access to water and also to increase the productivity of agriculture. Yet the farmer suicides increase every year, the welfare of farmers are not ensured.

  • Governments have not acted on recommendations of committees on farmer welfare. The Ramesh Chand Committee Report of March 2015 said the Minimum Support Price (MSP) should be calculated by computing farm labour at the skilled wage rate, calculating land rent at the actual rent without any ceiling, calculating interest on working capital, calculating interest on working capital, by including in the cost of cultivation post-harvest costs and by including the rate of inflation.

  • This, will increase the MSP cost by about 50%. But still farmers have been forced to sell below the MSP across India. Crop insurance was an integral part of recommendations of NCF.  Still, the recently revived PM Fasal Beema Yojana has been inadequate. Centre for Science and Environment reported that only 20 per cent of the eligible farmers were covered and most farmers had no idea about the scheme. This insurance scheme does not cover tenant farmers even though they constitute 50 per cent of farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh and other states. The insurance schemes does not cover women farmers even though the National Farmers’ Commission recommended decades ago that their names be included in the column of cultivators.

  • Expert committees have also recommended urgent steps to reduce rural indebtedness.The RBI guidelines that require 18 per cent of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) to be set aside for agriculture, and 8 per cent exclusively for small and marginal holders, must be followed.However, government allowed industrial houses to get a portion of the share of this credit facility.

  • Task Force on Organic and Non-Chemical Farming recommended in 2016 that all states should substitute chemical fertilizers with bio inputs in at least 10 per cent of the net cultivated area. However, the lobbying power of GM giants like Monsanto have been too difficult to resist for government.