The cancellation of Parliament’s winter session, citing the Covid pandemic, insults the steely determination shown by ordinary citizens in returning to their workplaces despite the pandemic. Parliament as the sovereign collective expression of national popular will has a duty to embody the same spirit, even to serve as an inspiration. Like workers, parliamentarians also take home salaries and the government should be putting them to work with necessary precautions. If the monsoon session could be conducted in September at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave, citing the pandemic for shelving the winter session makes little sense.
The damages incurred from giving Parliament the short shrift should be fairly evident to the government now. Farmers rationalise their blockade of Delhi by blaming the Centre for pushing farm reform legislations through the curtailed monsoon session without adequate discussion and scrutiny. While mollifying farmers who are mounting pressure, Parliament offers government a truly representative platform with myriad voices and potentially helpful suggestions towards proposing a mutually acceptable package. The current hollowing out of the economy, desirability of a fiscal stimulus to boost demand, the complex vaccine rollout, and the unending standoff with China at LAC also merit discussion.
The budget session’s preoccupation with the budget will leave little time to examine such weighty issues. It is ironic that Parliament is in holiday mode even as political activity continues with no regard for the pandemic or public health. The Bihar election or numerous assembly bypolls and civic body polls weren’t put off. Though Bengal elections are still months away, large political rallies are frequent. If politics is essential public service that can’t wait for pandemics to abate, Parliament must operate by the same rules too. All politics and no accountability is a sure recipe for poor governance outcomes.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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