Our government, in the last few months, has passed remarkable acts and bills that aim to bring about more social and financial welfare for us, the people.
First, what is the difference between an ‘act’ and a ‘bill’, you may ask? Well, legislative proposals are brought before either house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) of India in the form of a bill. A bill is the draft of a legislative proposal, which, when passed by both houses of Parliament and assented to by the President, becomes an Act of Parliament.
In the last few months, the government has passed the following progressive acts and bills for the people’s and the country’s social and economic advantages.
It is our duty as active and aware citizens to be aware of these developments and support these new, empowering as they come into existence.
1. The Mental Healthcare Bill 2017:
This ambitious Mental Healthcare bill is indeed a step closer to a progressive India. Depression, stress, suicide — these words have become common in are often used frivolously, by the media, cinema and in daily conversations. However, the gravity of mental illness is rarely comprehended by the masses.
In an effort to curb this growing illness and create a conducive environment to address the mental well-being of the public, the Government of India repealed the archaic 1987 Act and passed the Mental Health Care Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha on March 27, 2017. As a progressive step, the bill not only seeks to expand the definition of mental illness but also replaces the term “mentally ill” with “person with mental illness”, thereby suggesting that mental illness is not a permanent state; rather it is a temporary phase that can be treated.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare report, India faces a treatment gap of 50-70 percent for mental healthcare, implying that more than half of the population does not get the required treatment and medical facilities. For proper implementation, the bill mandates the provision of a mental healthcare facility in every district in the country, which requires a massive financial budget given the lack of facilities available, particularly at the district and sub-district levels.
To read on the positives and negatives of this bill, please click here.
Watch two public icons, Lady Gaga and Prince William, talk about mental health in the following video.
2. The Goods and Services Tax Bill
On 29th of March 2017, the Rajya Sabha passed four supplementary legislations which will enable the government to rollout the landmark Goods and Services Tax Bill on July 1.
The four Bills are the Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017, the Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017, the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017 and the Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017.
GST promises to be the biggest tax revolution in the country since independence. According to Finance Minister Jaitley, “once the new regime is implemented, the harassment of businesses by different authorities will end and India will have one rate for one commodity throughout the country. It will be a unifying tax”.
To read more on the GST and how doing business will be different under GST, click here.
3. The Rights of Person with Disabilities bill
Ending a long wait for lakhs of persons with disability in the country, this new progressive bill, aimed at securing and enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities, was cleared by the Lok Sabha on 16th December 2016.
The salient features of the Bill are:
- Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
- The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
This will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory. This will fulfil the obligations on the part of India in terms of UNCRD. Further, the new law will not only enhance the Rights and Entitlements of the disabled but also provide an effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the society in a satisfactory manner.
Read more on this landmark bill on the PMOs website here.
4. The Maternity Benefit (amendment) Bill
On 20th March 2017, the Rajya Sabha cleared an amendment in the Maternity Benefit Act, ensuring up to 26 weeks of paid Maternity week for women instead of 12. Several expert bodies like the WHO have recommended that at least 24 weeks of maternity leave is required to protect maternal and child health after birth. While women will be provided with 26 weeks of maternity leave for two children, the period of leave for a third child will be 12 weeks
To read the bill in full, click here.
All of the above are a bill in the right direction indeed! Let us encourage our local and national lawmakers, support them when they do a good job and hold them accountable when needed. Isn’t this the biggest duty in a democracy anyway?