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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 51, New Delhi, December 4, 2021

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, Dec 4, 2021

Saturday 4 December 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, December 4, 2021

The Prime Minister had on the eve of the Winter Session of Parliament signalled that the Government was open to discussing all issues. The session began on November 29, with the government according top priority to the repeal of Farm laws that it had introduced one year ago and which had faced major opposition by the farmer’s protest movement. The opposition parties in Parliament objected to the lack of discussion around the Farm Laws Repeal Bill; it wanted to highlight farmers other demands that go beyond just the repeal of the three farm laws. The Government had earlier railroaded through the Parliament the contentious farm laws without much legislative deliberation. And now the farm laws repeal bill was passed in Lok Sabha within four minutes without any discussion and later in the Rajya Sabha with limited discussion. The government seems not very inclined to spend time on democratic deliberation inside Parliament (and evades scrutiny as we saw in the Pegasus snooping matter). Before the Opposition could get its act together on the opening day of Parliament, the Government made a swift move derailing them. 12 Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended for the entire session, for their alleged ‘misconduct and unruly behaviour’ during the previous Monsoon session. A motion calling for the suspension of MPs was moved by a Govt Minister and was passed by the house immediately. Leader of the Opposition in the house Mallikarjun Kharge asked how such a decision could be made about events that occurred in the previous session. According to him the motion for suspension moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister violated the set rules. The Parliamentary rules require the chair to name the members in question before a motion concerning them is moved, and this was not done when the 12 MPs were suspended with the motion adopted on November 29. Naturally, the opposition parties protested and wanted the suspension of MPs revoked. The ruling party MPs and the Government seem to be doing all to show the opposition in a bad light and as being responsible for disrupting parliament. Without going too far back into history, people should remember how all Parliamentary debate was stonewalled by the ‘holier than thou’ the then opposition parties — BJP and others during the last term of the UPA from 2008-2013. The Modi government now has an overwhelming majority in Parliament and has huge influence outside on TV and media networks that shape public opinion. Political debates can be witnessed on TV but hardly in Parliament these days. Dialogue, debate, questions and scrutiny over government policy are the cornerstones of parliamentary democracy and they must be allowed. In the current session of Parliament (and in previous ones too) questions have been asked about how many peasants have died during their year-long agitation. The Government has responded by saying it has no figures regarding these deaths. Obviously, the government is nervous about revealing any data that can show them in poor light. The public must have credible information on governmental action, and matters being taken up for law-making but a new hurdle here is that India’s journalists are not freely allowed to enter the parliament — Media is allowed to cover the crowds in Prime Minister’s electoral rallies and Government’s staged promotional events, but only a handful of media representatives are allowed in Parliament because of Covid-19 distancing restrictions. Greater scrutiny is good for democracy, we will have to work hard for it.

o o

Tributes:

Mohan Bhandari the well-known Punjabi writer died on November 26, 2021

Professor Aly Ercelan, the well-known development economist who moved from academia to directly work for social movement groups — he worked for long years with Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) in Karachi and later also with the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, passed away on November 27, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

December 4, 2021 – HK

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