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India's Parliament tackles backlog of bills ahead of general election

The two houses of the Indian Parliament reconvene on Wednesday for their penultimate session before the general election. There are dozens of bills that need to be cleared but due to a lack of consensus between the ruling party and opposition, important legislation has been stalled.

NEW DELHI: The two houses of the Indian Parliament reconvene on Wednesday for their penultimate session before the general election.

There are dozens of bills that need to be cleared but due to a lack of consensus between the ruling party and opposition, important legislation has been stalled.

The ruling Congress-led coalition has an ambitious agenda of getting 39 bills passed in parliament. However, the opposition has no intention of cooperating with the treasury bench.

The opposition party argues that the government is trying to push populist measures disguised as pending bills just before the elections. The BJP said that such legislation should be left for the next government to contend with.

It is another hurdle for a government with a poor record of passing bills in parliament.

Kamal Nath, the Parliamentary Affairs' Minister, said: "This 15th Lok Sabha has witnessed many disturbances and disruptions. And what has come to the fore is that a new method of opposition, which is not to oppose but to disrupt. This has, unfortunately, (become) a very dangerous habit."

One of the many bills at stake is one that gives disabled people equal rights, especially in education and employment.

According to a UN estimate, India has 40 to 90 million disabled people, who have long been among the most excluded and stigmatised in society.

One of the bill's supporters said: "The National Federation of the Blind filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which on October 3 ordered that there should be a three per cent provision in every organisation for disabled people, including one per cent for the blind. The court ordered the counting be within three months. That hasn't happened so far.

"That's why we are protesting here in front of Narayansamy's (a junior minister in the Prime Minister's Office) house and will not move till our demands are met."

There is also a pending bill which guarantees the protection of street vendors, some of whom visited Congress leader Rahul Gandhi earlier this week to seek help.

There are 126 other bills pending in the parliament, which is set for a 16-day session. The passage of the anti-graft bill is the main legislative agenda of the government.

It will need to make rapid progress in Parliament to reach consensus or face being judged as one of the least productive governments the country has ever seen. 

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