In a speech to mark the foundation stone ceremony of the new Parliament building, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted how India has proved those naysayers wrong who had doubted whether democracy would be successful here. It is dialogue that has been at the heart of this success, always serving to resolve differences. Parliament – where the nation’s elected representatives sit, deliberate, debate and pass laws – embodies this central attribute of democracy. As the new Parliament building rises, subject to litigation in Supreme Court, the government should also undertake steps to make democracy more meaningful. Too often, democracy has got the short shrift in Parliament itself.
The passage of far reaching instruments like Aadhaar Act and electoral bonds as money bills and generally enacting laws without adequate scrutiny short circuits necessary public debate. Most recently we have seen how promulgating farm reforms as ordinances and then rushing them through Parliament has proved a recipe for unrest. Precedents of give and take merit emulation here, such as the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act being passed after intense parliamentary debate, with the UPA government accepting opposition’s demand to up the liability cap on nuclear operators.
Those rueing that India’s democracy prevents it from mirroring China’s successes must remember how that authoritarian model has spawned the pandemic and the Xinjiang atrocities. But the failure to convene Parliament’s winter session is a missed opportunity to take MPs into confidence on the pandemic and economic crisis trajectories, vaccine delivery plans and economic revival packages. In recent days, Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern helming parliamentary democracies like India’s have made powerful use of the parliamentary forum to communicate on such issues. Indeed any compromises on the new farm laws would also be much better made in Parliament than bypassing it again.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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