So far, both Houses of Parliament have been witnessing disruptions. At the beginning of the session, 23 Bills were listed for passage, and 20 were listed for introduction. Two weeks in, one Bill has been passed by both Houses, and three others by Lok Sabha. These include Bills dealing with the re-haul of consumer protection laws, regulation of surrogacy, and recognition of transgender persons. Six Bills have been introduced. These include three Bills which replace the Ordinances currently in force, and a Bill to regulate dam safety. In this blog, we discuss the key features of some of these Bills.
Enhancing rights of consumers
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It was introduced in view of the significant changes in the consumer market landscape since the 1986 Act. It introduces several new provisions such as enabling consumers to make product liability claims for an injury or harm caused to them, nullifying unfair contracts which impact consumer interests (such as contracts which charge excessive security deposits), and imposing penalties for false and misleading advertisements on manufacturers, as well as on the endorsers of such advertisements.
The Bill also sets up Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions (or courts) at the district, state, and national level, to hear complaints on matters related to deficiencies in services or defects in goods. While these Commissions are also present under the 1986 Act, the Bill increases their pecuniary jurisdiction: District Commissions will hear complaints with a value of up to one crore rupees; State Commissions between one and ten crore rupees; and National Commission above 10 crore rupees. The Bill also sets up a regulatory body known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority. This Authority can take certain actions to protect the rights of consumers as a class such as passing orders to recall defective goods from the market, and imposing penalties for false and misleading advertisements.
Recognising transgender persons and their rights
Last week, Lok Sabha also passed the Transgender Bill, 2018. This Bill seeks to recognise transgender persons, confers certain rights and entitlements on them related to education, employment, and health, and carves out welfare measures for their benefit. The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and includes persons having such socio-cultural identities as kinnar, hijra, aravani, and jogta. The Bill requires every establishment to designate one person as a complaint officer to act on complaints received under the Bill.
The Bill provides that a transgender person will have the right to self-perceived gender identity. Further, it also provides for a screening process to obtain a Certificate of Identity, certifying the person as ‘transgender’. This implies that a transgender person may be allowed to self-identify as transgender individual, but at the same time they must also undergo the screening process to get certified as a transgender. Therefore, it is unclear how these two provisions of self-identification and an external screening process will reconcile with each other.
Regulating surrogacy and overhauling the Medical Council of India
The Surrogacy Bill, 2017 which regulates altruistic surrogacy and prohibits commercial surrogacy was also passed in Lok Sabha. Surrogacy is a process where an intending couple commissions an eligible woman to carry their child. In an altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate mother is not given any monetary benefit or reward, and the arrangement only covers her medical expenses and health insurance. The Bill sets out certain conditions for both the intending couple and the surrogate mother to be eligible for surrogacy. The intending couple must be Indian citizens, be married for at least five years, and at least one of them must be infertile. The surrogate mother must be a close relative of the couple, must be married and must have had a child of her own. Further, a surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy.
The surrogate mother has been given certain rights with regard to the procedure of surrogacy. These include requiring her written consent to abort the surrogate child, and allowing her to withdraw from the surrogacy at any time before the embryo is implanted in her womb.
Another key Bill which was listed for passage in Lok Sabha this session but could not be taken up is the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017 (NMC Bill). Several amendments to this Bill were introduced in Lok Sabha last week. The NMC Bill seeks to replace the Medical Council of India, with a National Medical Commission. It introduces a common final year undergraduate medical examination called the National Exit Test which will also grant the license to practice medicine. Only medical students graduating from a medical institute which is an institute of national importance will be exempted from qualifying this National Exit Test. The Bill also gives the NMC the power to frame guidelines to decide the fees of up to 50% of seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities. The NMC may also grant limited license to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the medical profession to practice medicine. The qualifying criteria for such mid-level practitioners will be determined through regulations, and they may prescribe specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare.
Regulating dam safety
The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha and applies to all specified dams across the country. These are dams with: (i) height more than 15 metres, or (ii) height between 10 metres to 15 metres and subject to certain additional design and structural conditions. It seeks to provide for the surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters. It creates authorities at the national and state level to formulate policies and regulations on dam safety and implement them. It also puts certain obligations on dam owners by requiring them to provide a dam safety unit in each dam, among other things.
When the Bill was being introduced, few opposition members raised objections on the grounds of Parliament’s legislative competence to make a law on dam safety which applies to all states. They gave the example of the previous Dam Safety Bill, 2010, which applied only to the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal who had adopted resolutions requiring Parliament to pass a law on dam safety.
So far the winter session has seen poor productivity with Lok Sabha working for 14% of its scheduled time, and Rajya Sabha for 5%. This is one of the least productive sessions of the 16th Lok Sabha. This is also the last major session before the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. Both Houses will meet tomorrow after the Christmas break. With a packed legislative agenda, it is essential for Parliament to function in order to discuss and deliberate the Bills listed. However, with a limited number of sitting days available in the ongoing session and continued disruptions, it remains to be seen if Parliament will be able to achieve its legislative agenda.
- This post is a modified version of an article published by The Wire on December 26, 2018.
On October 2, 2021, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) celebrates its seventh anniversary. It was launched on October 2, 2014 to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019. The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management. In this blog post, we discuss the sanitation coverage leading up to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the progress made under this scheme.
Nation-wide sanitation programmes in past
According to the Census, the rural sanitation coverage in India was only 1% in 1981.
The first nationwide programme with a focus on sanitation was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was started in 1986 to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas. Later, in 1999, CRSP was restructured and launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC). While CRSP was a supply-driven infrastructure-oriented programme based on subsidy, TSC was a demand-driven, community-led, project-based programme organised around the district as the unit.
By 2001, only 22% of the rural families had access to toilets. It increased further to 32.7% by 2011. In 2012, TSC was revamped as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to accelerate the sanitation coverage in rural areas through saturation approach and by enhancing incentives for Individual Household Latrines (IHHL).
In comparison to rural sanitation, fewer programmes were enacted to tackle deficiencies in urban sanitation. In the 1980s, the Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme provided subsidies for households to build low-cost toilets. Additionally, the National Slum Development Project and its replacement programme, the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana launched in 2001, were programmes that aimed to construct community toilets for slum populations. In 2008, the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) was announced to manage human excreta and associated public health and environmental impacts.
On October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched with two components: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), to focus on rural and urban sanitation, respectively. While the rural component of the Mission is implemented under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the urban one is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. In 2015, the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan under NITI Aayog had observed that the key difference between SBM and previous programmes was in the efforts to attract more partners to supplement public sector investment towards sanitation.
Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-Gramin)
The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers (2015) had noted that more than half of India’s 25 crore households do not have access to toilets close to places where they live. Notably, during the 2015-19 period, a major portion of expenditure under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation was towards SBM-Gramin (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin during 2014-22
Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates. Expenditure before 2019-20 were from the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Sources: Union Budgets 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.
The expenditure towards Swachh Bharat – Gramin saw a steady increase from 2014-15 (Rs 2,841 crore) to 2017-18 (Rs 16,888 crore) and a decrease in the subsequent years. Moreover, during 2015-18, the expenditure of the scheme exceeded the budgeted amount by more than 10%. However, every year since 2018-19, there has been some under-utilisation of the allocated amount.
As per the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, 43.8% of the rural households had access to toilets in 2014-15, which increased to 100% in 2019-20 (see Figure 2). However, the 15th Finance Commission (2020) noted that the practice of open defecation is still prevalent, despite access to toilets and highlighted that there is a need to sustain the behavioural change of people for using toilets. The Standing Committee on Rural Development raised a similar concern in 2018, noting that “even a village with 100% household toilets cannot be declared open defecation-free (ODF) till all the inhabitants start using them”. The Standing Committee also raised questions over the construction quality of toilets and observed that the government is counting non-functional toilets, leading to inflated data.
Figure 2: Toilet coverage for rural households
Sources: Dashboard of SBM (Gramin), Ministry of Jal Shakti; PRS.
The 15th Finance Commission also noted that the scheme only provides financial incentives to construct latrines to households below the poverty line (BPL) and selected households above the poverty line. It highlighted that there are considerable exclusion errors in finding BPL households and recommended the universalisation of the scheme to achieve 100% ODF status.
In March 2020, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Phase II of SBM-Gramin which will focus on ODF Plus, and will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore. ODF Plus includes sustaining the ODF status, and solid and liquid waste management. Specifically, it will ensure that effective solid and liquid waste management is instituted in every Gram Panchayat of the country.
Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-Urban)
SBM-Urban aims at making urban India free from open defecation and achieving 100% scientific management of municipal solid waste in 4,000+ towns in the country. One of its targets was the construction of 66 lakh individual household toilets (IHHLs) by October 2, 2019. However, this target was then lowered to 59 lakh IHHLS by 2019. This target was achieved by 2020 (see Table 1).
Table 1: Toilet construction under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (as of December 30, 2020)
Individual Household Latrines
Community and Public Toilets
Sources: Swachh Bharat Mission Urban - Dashboard; PRS.
Figure 3: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban during 2014-22 (in Rs crore)
Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates.
Sources: Union Budget 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.
The Standing Committee on Urban Development noted in early 2020 that toilets built under the scheme in areas including East Delhi are of very poor quality, and do not have adequate maintenance. Further, only 1,276 of the 4,320 cities declared to be open defecation free have toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene. Additionally, it also highlighted in September 2020 that uneven release of funds for solid waste management across states/UTs needs to be corrected to ensure fair implementation of the programme.
The Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021) also expressed concern about the slow pace in achieving targets for source segregation and waste processing. The completion of their targets stood at 78% and 68% respectively of the goal set under SBM-Urban during 2020-21. In addition, other targets related to the door-to-door collection of waste also remained unfulfilled (see Table 2).
Table 2: Waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (progress as of December 30, 2020)
Door to Door Waste Collection (Wards)
Source Segregation (Wards)
Waste Processing (in %)
Sources: Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021); PRS.
In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced in her budget speech that the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be launched. Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will focus on: (i) sludge management, (ii) waste-water treatment, (iii) source segregation of garbage, (iv) reduction in single-use plastics and (v) control of air pollution caused by construction, demolition, and bio-remediation of dumpsites. On October 1, 2021, the Prime Minister launched SBM-Urban 2.0 with the mission to make all our cities ‘Garbage Free’.