Only 14 private member’s Bills have been passed since Independence.
At this time when major areas across the Nation are reeling under severe drought, President Pranab Mukherjee has decided to recommend for further consideration of a Private Member’s Bill. This Bill seeks to create a welfare fund for farmers of arid, desert and drought-prone regions of India. Significantly, the Bill was moved by Upper House Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
The Bill titled Farmers of Arid and Desert Areas (Welfare and Other Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 was introduced by Patel in Upper House Rajya Sabha in December 2014. It proposes welfare fund which would involve expenditure from the Consolidate Fund of India. The draft Bill proposes an initial fund corpus of Rs 10,000 crore from the central government. It estimates that “a total sum of Rs 20,000 crore may be involved as recurring expenditure per annum. A non-recurring expenditure of about Rs 5,000 crore may also be involved from the Consolidated Fund of India.”
Under the Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, a Bill which suggests or involves expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, cannot be passed by Parliament unless the President gives his recommendation and send it to the House where it is being considered.
The President can also withhold the recommendation but it is rare. The President, in deciding whether to recommend or to withhold such a Bill, goes by the advice of the government, particularly the Finance Ministry. “To put it in layman’s language, the recommendation is mandatorily required lest the Bill becomes a law and the government subsequently finds that it does not have the money to be spent from the Consolidated Fund of India,” former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C Kashyap has said.
In a letter written to the Upper House Rajya Sabha Secretary General just a few days back, Agriculture Minister RM Singh had stated that the President, having been informed about the subject matter of the particular Bill, has given recommendation for its consideration under article 117(3) of the Constitution by the Upper House Rajya Sabha.
While just 14 private member’s Bills have been passed since Independence, Patel’s Bill assumes significance given the humanitarian as well as political ramifications of drought and its fallouts. The Bill seeks to create a dedicated welfare fund for farmers at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led from the front a campaign to woo farmers and downtrodden sections of the society. Also, the fact that the Bill has been moved in the Upper House Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, is also significant.
In the statement of objects and reasons of the draft Bill, Patel has identified Suarashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, several parts of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha as the regions which are frequently affected by drought conditions.
He recommends that this welfare fund should be set up for all the farmers of arid and desert areas as they face frequent drought conditions and end up losing their crops, leading to indebtedness and distress.
The Bill aims to provide for “protective measures apart from special facilities for the farmers of arid, desert and drought prone areas, which are often affected by natural calamities causing loss of crops, livestock, making them vulnerable to indebtedness, disease and physical infirmities, exploitation by the money lenders.”
Kashyap said, “While the Presidential recommendation for private members’ Bills that involve expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India is necessary, such Bills, if passed by both the Houses, might still not become law if the President withholds his assent to the Bill.”
Read Full Text here-