An ominous sign for our democracy

An ominous sign for our democracy

Parliament building in Delhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

There is no justification for the cancellation of the winter session of parliament. The reason given by the government is not even a good excuse, and the message is not that it is concerned over the Covid-19 pandemic or that it wants to secure the health of MPs. The decision only shows that it does not want to face parliament, and that it does not consider parliament important. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi has said that there is a chance of the pandemic surging in the winter months and the assemblage of MPs for many days is not advisable. But the monsoon session, though truncated, was held when the pandemic was at its peak with over 80,000 cases every day, far higher than the 25,000 or so cases being reported today. So, the pandemic is not a convincing reason for doing away with the session.

The economy and social spaces are opening up and most people have returned to their workplaces, though with safeguards and precautions. Even students will soon be going to school. MPs can afford the best safeguards and the government can put any safety measures in place for them. Then why can’t the session be held? If there is to be no physical session, a virtual session can be held. When the pandemic was raging, an Assembly election and many by-elections and civic elections were held in the country. The BJP itself is holding rallies and other congregations in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. The government has said that it had held informal talks with floor leaders of political parties before taking a decision, but they have denied it. It now says the budget session will be held “as early as possible’’. There is no certainty that the Covid-19 situation will be better in the New Year. The session will be preoccupied with the budget and discussions about it and there will be hardly any time left for other issues.

The signs are ominous for our parliamentary democracy. The monsoon session was held without the question hour. Now, the session itself has been done away with. No other country has skipped its parliament sessions during the pandemic. Parliament is the forum where the nation discusses and deliberates on its most pressing issues and problems, and now is when these discussions are needed most. Matters ranging from the pandemic to the state of the economy, the farmers’ agitation and the situation on the border in Ladakh need to be discussed. To deny the nation the opportunity to discuss these is to deny the very basis of our democracy. It is in line with the lack of regard and respect for parliament that the Modi government has shown all along.