Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad speaks to Manoj C G about the importance of reconvening Parliament and the issues that need to be discussed.
The monsoon session of Parliament may be a mix of virtual and physical participation. What is your view on that?
I would like to thank the chairman of the Rajya Sabha for taking the initiative in consultation with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to explore options on reconvening Parliament. Parliament should meet. It has been more than three months since it last met for the budget session. And in these three months, the government has taken a lot of executive decisions. These decisions should be discussed and scrutinised by Parliament. Under Article 75 (3) of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People. The foundational philosophy of parliamentary democracy as enshrined in the Constitution is that the executive is accountable to Parliament. It was very well expounded by Dr B R Ambedkar while piloting the Draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly. As per this philosophy and constitutional provision, the Cabinet is collectively responsible to the Parliament (Lok Sabha).
You mentioned scrutiny by Parliament. But the standing committees were not able to meet. For instance, the plea of the chairman of the Standing Committee on Home to allow participation of members through video conference was not accepted.
The standing committees are not even allowed to function by employing digital technology on the ground that these technologies are not secure enough to guarantee confidentiality of committee proceedings. When the Union Cabinet is using such technology and when the Prime Minister is using such technology to interact with chief ministers and no confidentiality is breached, why is the supreme institution of Parliament and its committees embodying the people’s will denied such opportunities? Parliamentary scrutiny involves all-party scrutiny of government decisions, which means people’s will is involved in fine-tuning the governance process. People are already accusing the Modi government of ensuring “maximum pandemic and minimum governance”. Without the functioning of Parliament and its committees, the maximum pandemic and minimum governance would get multiplied and health, economic slowdown and human security would be endangered. There are a number of other countries where Parliament sessions are being held in one way or the other.
What are the decisions the government has taken that you think need to be discussed in Parliament?
Numerous decisions taken by the government during the lockdown should be discussed in Parliament, which is an embodiment of the supreme will of the people of India. Decisions of the government are based on deliberative and consultative processes. The Parliament of India, being a deliberative and consultative body, should examine these decisions and provide parliamentary inputs or the inputs of people on these decisions.
What are the issues you plan to raise during the Parliament session? Your views on the lockdown, the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and effect on the economy?
The government has failed in handling the entire pandemic. The entire country was shut down and immobilised on four hours’ notice. That was a wrong decision. That was the time when the virus had not spread. Transportation of all types should have been made available to all migrant workers and within a week’s time every worker would have reached their respective places. There would not have been suffering all around, and secondly the spread of the virus would have been far less. When coronavirus was at its peak and restrictions should have been imposed, people in millions were allowed to travel. So, this is totally wrong planning, more so regarding testing kits, and there are no arrangements for patients.
What is your view on the India-China border stand-off? The government has hit out at Rahul Gandhi for raising questions on it.
As far as the India-China stand-off is concerned, it is most important. It is a question of our territorial integrity and this issue needs to be discussed in Parliament.
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