The Budget session 2013 commenced with the President, Pranab Mukherjee, addressing Parliament on February 21, 2013. The address is a statement of the policy of the government. Yesterday a Motion of Thanks was moved in the Lok Sabha and a detailed discussion took place on the President’s address. (The significance of the President’s speech has been discussed in an article published in the Indian Express.)
Below are some legislative and policy items from the agenda of the central government outlined in the speech.
- Amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to punish the guilty and protect the honest public servants more effectively.
- The Direct Benefits Transfer system has been launched to enable government sponsored benefits such as scholarships, pensions and maternity benefits to be deposited in the beneficiaries Aadhaar linked accounts. This will be expanded to cover wages and subsidies on food and LPG. This system will not substitute public services and will be complementary to the Public Distribution System.
- In a bid to promote Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, 20% of all government procurement is required to be from Micro and Small Enterprises.
- The coverage under the Mid-day Meal Programme to be expanded to pre-primary schools.
- Godown storage capacity of 181 lakh tons will be created between 2013 and 2015 across the country with additional storage space of 5.4 lakh tons in the North East.
- A Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project for Low Income States, estimated at nearly Rs 5000 crore, is being developed to assist States that are lagging behind in the coverage of piped water supply.
- Two and a half lakh gram panchayats will be connected with broadband facility under the National Optical Fibre Network project by December 2014.
- A shift in central funding to states for higher education through a new programme called the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan is being considered.
- The government proposes to establish two new major ports at Sagar Island, West Bengal and the other in Andhra Pradesh, with a total additional capacity of around 100 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MTPA). ‘In-principle’ approval has been given for setting up an airport at Aranmula (Kerala) apart from airports at Navi Mumbai, Mopa (Goa) and Kannur (Kerela).
- In 2012-13, 2600 km of roads are expected to be constructed and contracts for 3000 km of new roads are expected to be awarded. A new approach to road construction, the EPC mode, has been put in place. A length of 2900 km of highways will be put under the Operate, Maintain and Transfer system, which will improve road maintenance.
Legislative and policyagenda outlined in President’s addresses between 2009-2012 and their status
Legislations mentioned in the President’s Address between 2009-12
|To be introduced|
|Goods and Services Tax||Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced|
|The National Food Security Bill||Introduced|
|Amend the Land Acquisition Act and enact the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill||Introduced|
|Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Bill||Passed|
|The Whistleblower Bill||Pending|
|The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill||Pending|
|The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill||Pending|
|A model Public Services Law (to cover officials providing important social services and commits them to their duties)||Two bills introduced: the Electronic Services Delivery Bill and the Citizen’s Charter Bill|
|The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill||Passed|
|The National Council for Higher Education Bill||Introduced|
|Foreign Educational Institutions Bill||Introduced|
|Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill||Passed|
|The Women’s Reservation Bill||Pending|
|The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill||Introduced|
|The Public Procurement Bill||Introduced|
|The General Anti-Avoidance Rules||Scheduled for 2016|
|Amend of RTI Act (to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas)||To be introduced|
Policy items mentioned in the President’s Addresses between 2009-2012
|National Mission for Female Literacy – all women to be literate by 2013-14||National Literacy Mission recast in September 2009 to focus on female literacy; as per 2011 census the female literacy rate in India is 65.46%|
|Disposal of remaining claims in 2010 under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act||As on February 28, 2010, 27.16 lakh claims had been filed, 7.59 lakh titles had been distributed and 36,000 titles were ready for distribution; as on July 31, 2012, the number of claims filed for the recognition of forest rights and titles distributed are 32.28 lakh and 12.68 lakh respectively|
|Introduction of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) being considered||Based on the recommendations of the Committee constituted by Ministry of Panchayati Raj to look into aspects of MSP, Value addition and marketing of MFP in Fifth Schedule Areas, a Central Sector Scheme of MSP for MFP has been contemplated|
|Voting rights for Indian citizens living abroad||Bill passed; NRIs can vote at the place of residence mentioned in their passport|
|12th Plan target growth 9% with 4% growth for the agricultural sector||GDP grew by 5.4% and the agriculture sector by 1.8% in the first half of the current fiscal year (2012-13)|
|Establish national investment and manufacturing zones to promote growth in manufacturing||Under the National Manufacturing Policy, 12 National Investment and Manufacturing Zones are notified, 8 of them along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and 4 others at Nagpur, Tumkur, Chittor and Medak|
|Strengthening public accountability of flagship programmes by the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office.||Government has approved setting up of an Independent Evaluation Office and the Governing Board will be chaired by Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission|
|Unique Identity Card scheme to be implemented by 2011-12||Bill to give statutory status pending in Parliament; enrollment until February 2013 is approximately 28 crore|
|Establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre||Proposed launch of NCTC in March 2011 on hold as consultation with states is on; meeting held by the union government with the Chief Ministers of all the States in May 2012|
|Conversion of analog cable TV system to digital by December 2014||Government has implemented the first phase of digitization in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai; by March 31, 2013, 38 cities with a population of more than one million will be covered|
|A roadmap for judicial reform to be outlined by the end of 2009 and implemented in a time-bound manner||Vision statement formulated in 2009 outlining road map for improving justice delivery and legal reforms and steps to reduce pendency in Courts; setting up of a National Mission for the Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms to improve court administration and reduce pendency was approved in June 2011|
*Introduced means introduced in one House; Pending means passed by one House and pending in the other House; Passed means passed by both Houses of Parliament.
 “Major Recommendations of Expert Committee on GAAR Accepted”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, January 14, 2013.
 Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 175, December 5, 2012, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
 Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 2672, March 12, 2010, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
 Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 108, August 17, 2012, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
 “PM approves Constitution of National Council for Senior Citizens”, Press Information Bureau, February 1, 2012, Prime Minister’s Office.