Script: Nirendra Narayan Dev, Journalist
The major highlights of the proceedings in Parliament this week included change of guard in the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha. The outgoing Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari has made way for his successor and the new Vice President and ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha is M Venkaiah Naidu. He was received in the House with thumping of desks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed him with a brief speech and said Mr. Naidu is the first Vice President who was born in Independent India and one who has very wide parliamentary experience.
Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad said Naidu Is not new to the Rajya Sabha. Taking over the reins of the House of Elders minutes after his swearing in on August 11, Mr. Naidu, a veteran parliamentarian himself, thanked the members and pledged to live up to the expectations of the Members and the country.
Earlier, the outgoing Vice-President received generous compliments and praise for his role in is running of the house and the innovations he made in helping the Upper House function more smoothly. Prime Minister Modi thanked Mr. Ansari for his immense contribution to the House and said he had personally benefitted a lot from Mr. Ansari’s insight about many countries.
This week, both the Houses of Parliament held a detailed debate on the 75th anniversary of the ‘Quit India’ Movement. In the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Modi underlined that the spirit of Quit India Movement and of five years from 1942 to 1947 should be rekindled in people’s hearts for a similar movement for nation building between 2017 and 2022. Prime Minister said in 1942, the clarion call was “Karenge Ya Marenge (We will do or die)” now the call should be “Karenge aur Karke Rahenge (We will do and will achieve)”. Mr. Modi said the next five years should be about “Sankalp se Siddhi (Pledge to Achievement)”, a resolve which will lead the country towards accomplishments. Among others Congress President Sonia Gandhi and leaders of various parties also spoke. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said there was a need to start an initiative to unite the people of the country, as was done during the Quit India Movement.
The Rajya Sabha was informed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that the country’s biggest challenge is terrorism. First is the Left-Wing Extremism and second is terror and violence coming from across the border.
The Lok Sabha passed the bill to repeal the SBI (Subsidiary Banks) Act 1959 and related bills. This means the merger of five associate banks with the parent State Bank of India. Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar said that with this merger, the SBI has come in the list of top 50 banks globally and is ranked at the 45th position. Parliament also gave its nod to a bill that will empower the Reserve Bank of India to deal with ‘non performing assets’ in the banking sector, which has soared to Rs 8 lakh crore.
Lok Sabha took up a calling attention motion on floods in northeast India when Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that Prime Minister had recently announced a Rs. 2,000-crore flood-relief package for the Northeast.
The Textile sector in general have welcomed both the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and a series of labour reforms undertaken by the government resulting in drastic improvement and immense inflow of overseas investment into the sector, the Lok Sabha was informed. The Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said during Question Hour that a series of steps taken by the government during last three years has also helped attract “largest Foreign Direct Investment” into the sector.
The Rajya Sabha this week also bid an emotional farewell to three retiring members including CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, Trinamool Congress member Debendranath Bandopadhyay and BJP’s Dilipbhai Pandya. These three members are among the nine members of the House who also ended their term. However, six of them — Ahmed Patel, Smriti Irani, Derek O’Brien, Dola Sen, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and P Bhattacharya have been re-elected. BJP President Amit Shah has also been elected to the Upper House from Gujarat.