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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 35, New Delhi, August 14, 2021

Parliament Disruption: Dictatorial axe attack on Indian democracy | Mondal & Jana

Friday 13 August 2021

by Mohiuddin Mondal and Abhijit Jana *

Democracy as defined by Abraham Lincon, the sixteenth president of the USA, is "government of the people for the people and by the people" People means the citizens of the state, those who have the authoritative power of consent. That power is handed over to the political leadership, which has committed multiple security promises, including food, clothing, and shelter, for five years through a vote. John Stuart Mill, in his famous 1861 book "consideration on Representative Government", abolished the participation of all citizens in making good laws. He called on the people’s representatives to go to parliament through voting to make better laws. India was thus introduced to representative democracy in the subsequent elections of 1947. Where the elite leaders of the Congress represented the people in Parliament. Rajni Kothari called it the "umbrella of congress system". Parliament is an area where the demands of every people in India are valued. Here we can talk about "Melting pot" and "salad bowl" as multicultural voices. The Parliament of India is the "Melting Pot", where equal laws are enacted with emphasis on every demand of the multicultural peoples. Similarly, like the "salad bowl", the parliament of India gives different importance to the culture of each community. This is why Article 75 of the Constitution states that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People. Here the people speak of the responsibility of the delegates to the people, through whose obligation they have been sent to Parliament. Every member of the Indian Parliament has the right to legislate a bill properly through discussion and debate. The German philosopher Jurgen Habermas, in his famous 1962 book "The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere" emphasized the importance of the "public sphere" as the lifeblood of democracy. He said that the success of a democracy depends on the importance of the public debate. The quality of the Indian Parliament will certainly increase when it comes to the right legislation through debate in Parliament on the importance of public sphere demands.

In 1962, the Indian Parliament introduced its question hour and zero-hours to give importance to the opinion of the people. The importance of question hour is from that second Lok Sabha (5th April 1957-31 March 1962). During that time India’s parliament saw the first major financial scam which was called the Mundhra scandal and that was when Feroze Gandhi questioned the finance ministry regarding government-owned life insurance corporation’s companies. It eventually resulted in the resignation of the then finance minister T.T.Krishnamachari. Similarly in 1974 during the 5th Lok sabha (15 March 1971-18 January 1977) a licensing scandal was unearthed during question hour. A memorandum allegedly signed by 21 MPs was submitted by traders of Puducherry to the union commerce ministry to grant a license for importing various items. The signatures were forged on the behest of Indira Gandhi’s key aide, Lalit Narain Mishra.

This important question hour was canceled by the present ruling government in 2020 on the pretext of covid-19. Similarly, the 2021 budget session was shortened on the pretext of the state election campaign. In the current monsoon session of parliament, the ruling party is some of the bills that have been passed without much discussion in parliament: juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Amendment Bill, 2021, Factoring Amendment Bill, 2021, The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021, Tribunal Reforms Bill, 2021. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted, "In the first 10 days, Modi-Shah rushed through and passed 12 Bills at an average time of ’under seven minutes’ per bill for passing legislation or making papri chaat". The opposition party in Parliament demanded that the Government agree to a discussion on Pegasus snooping and farm laws. According to a Press Trust of India report, in this monsoon session, Parliament has only functioned for 18 hours out of the scheduled time of 108 hours resulting in a loss of more than Rs 133 core of taxpayer’s money. Rajya Sabha has functioned for nearly 21 percent of its scheduled time, Lok sabha has managed to function for less than 13 percent of the scheduled time.

Such actions of the government are undoubtedly a blow to democracy. In a poor country like India, the waste of so much public money hurts the people. In 1951 provisional parliament was formed that the question hour cost the exchequer Rs 6,000 or 100 a minute. In 1966 Prime Minister Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi told parliament that based on the budgetary allocation for Lok sabha the hourly cost of the proceedings in that house was Rs 18,000 or Rs 300 a minute. In 1993, the amount was 2,570. Last winter session of parliament runs for 15 days, the total expenditure of the winter session 144 crores, during of everyday proceedings 6 hours, working hours of parliament in the winter session 90 hours per hour expenditure Rs 160000000/60 minutes Rs 2.6 lakhs expenditure incurred in running minute Rs 2.6 lakhs.

Lately, it seems that the government is trying to silence the voice of the opposition. Such an authoritarian trend is unmatched in a multicultural India.

* (Authors: Mohiuddin Mondal, State Aided College Teacher at Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobish Mahavidyalaya, (Kolkata)Head of the Department, Faculty of Political Science; Abhijit Jana, Teacher at Sonarpur Mahavidyalaya (Kolkata), Faculty of Political Science.)

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