Letter by 78 senior, retired officers flags lack of consultation on farm sector laws
Extending support to the democratic and constitutional right to peaceful protests by the farmers, a group of former civil servants, belonging to All India and Central Services, in an open letter, said the three farm sector laws “represent an assault upon the federal character of the Constitution”. The letter also demanded that the ruling dispensation “listens carefully to the demands being made and demonstrates its respect for democratic traditions, procedures and practices by engaging in dialogue inside and outside Parliament”.
Signed by 78 former bureaucrats, including Chief Secretaries, Joint Secretaries and Director Generals of Police, the letter pointed out that there were no consultations with farmers’ representatives before the legal process of bringing the laws.
“To start with, ordinances were issued during a colossal pandemic which deserved undiluted attention. When the Bills were introduced in Parliament in September, 2020, the demand to send them to Parliamentary Committees was denied. It is pertinent to point out that according to a newspaper report of September 2020, in recent times, the percentage of Bills scrutinised by Parliamentary Select Committees rose from 60% during UPA I (14th Lok Sabha) to a high of 71% during UPA II (15th Lok Sabha) but fell to 25% in NDA I (16th Lok Sabha). In the current Lok Sabha, very few Bills have been sent to Parliamentary Committees,” read the letter, saying that its focus was on the violation of constitutional provisions and the breakdown of democratic processes in this saga and not the merits and demerits of the three laws.
The letter further pointed out that keeping with the federal structure of the Constitution and the range and diversity of State-specific needs, “agriculture” was at Entry 14 in List-II in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.
“The subjects in this List are within the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the States and it has been argued convincingly that the laws passed are, therefore, unconstitutional”.
Referring to earlier events, the letter said the undermining of democratic processes and the total disregard for public consultation and convenience had been evident in the ways in which Article 370 was repealed, demonetisation was implemented without warning or preparation, the Citizenship Amendment Act was brought in and a lockdown ordered with hardly any notice, resulting in untold suffering for millions of migrant workers.
“What is noteworthy and common to all these actions was a refusal to consult the people affected beforehand and a determination to not hold a dialogue afterwards. The facile option of labelling all those who disagree with one or other of the actions of the government as “anti-national”, “pro-Pakistani”, “award-vapasi gang”, “urban Naxals” and “Khan Market gang” is chosen to avoid substantive discussion and debate, the very heart of the democratic process, and to vilify and criminalise dissent,” the letter said.
The signatories to the letter include former Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, Salahuddin Ahmad; Former Secretary, Coal, Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan and Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Suresh K. Goel.