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Sexual harassment bill passed by Lok Sabha
An important bill that seeks to protect women, including domestic workers, from sexual harassment at workplace was passed in the Lok Sabha on September 3, 2012. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2010, was passed without discussion.
According to the bill, piloted by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome act or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. The acts or behaviour — direct or by implication — will also include any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Non-compliance with the provisions of the law will be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to do business.
The bill defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work for remuneration. A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which examined the bill, held the firm view that preventive aspects had to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case. The judgment not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.
The bill makes it mandatory for all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces to have an internal complaints redress mechanism.
A major area of concern in the draft was the provision for punishing those who register “false complaints” against the employer. Sexual harassment at workplace is under reported. Most women, even if they do report a case, quickly become isolated at the workplace without support to prove her case. So, in such an environment, women have to deal with the provision of being penalised if a complaint is not proved. This goes against the very spirit of the Bill.
Lok Sabha passes NIMHANS Bill
Mental healthcare in the country is set to get a major boost with the Lok Sabha on September 4, 2012 according approval to the draft Bill seeking to provide the status of ‘institution of national importance’ to National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. The Rajya Sabha had unanimously passed the Bill in August. The Bill will become an Act after the President’s assent.
The new status will provide more autonomy to the institute and will facilitate training more persons in the field of mental healthcare delivery. This comes at a time when there is a lack of trained professionals in the field.
The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had introduced the Bill in the Rajya Sabha in December 2010 after which it was referred to a 30-member Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Brinda Karat.
NIMHANS is the fourth institute in the country to get the status of ‘institution of national importance’ after All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh and the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry.
Vendors Bill introduced in Lok Sabha
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood & Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, was presented in the Lok Sabha by Union Minister of Urban Housing & Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja on September 6, 2012. The Bill, which seeks to protect the rights of vendors and regulate their activity in public areas, has provisions for setting up vending zones where street vendors can sell their products without fear of being fined and harassed by the municipal authorities and the police.
The Bill defines “street vendor” as a “person engaged in vending of articles, goods, wares, food items or merchandise of every day use or offering services to the general public, in a street lane, side walk, foot path, pavement, public park or any other public place or private area or by moving from place to place and includes hawker, peddler, squatter and all other synonymous terms which may be local or region specific”.
As per the provisions of the Bill, anyone over 14 years of age who intends to do street vending can register himself/herself with the Town Vending Committee (TVC), which will have also representatives of the vending community. Every TVC will have grievance redressal committee headed by retired sub judge or magistrate or executive magistrate.
The Bill makes it mandatory for the vendors to get themselves registered with the TVC which will issue vendors identity cards.
The TVC can not reject any application “without giving the applicant an opportunity to rectify deficiencies, if any, and affording him an opportunity of hearing”, mandates the Bill which also given preference to members of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, women and physically disabled persons in granting certificate of registration.
The Bill empowers local authorities to evict vendor on account of public obstruction of the street or in case the vendor fails to comply with the provisions of the Bill. But it also says: “No street vendor shall be evicted or relocated by the local authorities from the site allocated to him unless he has been given seven days notice.”
Other important provisions of the Bill include developing Street Vending Plan and framing social welfare schemes by every municipal body to promote supportive environment for street vendors.
Civil society groups have disagreed with some provisions like eviction/relocation of street vendors after notice of seven days and the proposed legislation being not applicable to the land and premises belonging to the Railways.
Lok Sabha passes North-Eastern Areas Amendment Bill:
The Lok Sabha passed by voice vote, a bill to bifurcate the civil services cadre of Manipur and Tripura — The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Amendment Bill, 2011 on September 3, 2012. At present, the two States have a joint cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service.
Lok Sabha passes Bill seeking expansion of NHAI: A Bill that seeks to expand the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was passed in the Lok Sabha on September 3, 2012. At present the NHAI consists of a chairman, up to five full-time members and up to four part-time members. The National Highways Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2011 seeks to expand the Authority and it will now consist of a chairman, up to six full-time members and six part-time members. It mandates that at least two of the part-time members must be non-government professionals with knowledge or experience in financial management, transportation planning or any other relevant discipline. Induction of outside professionals is expected to enhance the capacity of the NHAI to take strategic decision, widen its perspective, bring in the best management practices, and assist in achieving the goal of higher private participation.