Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Growing sense of distrust

Pankaj Sharma
5 December 2016

Ongoing winter session of Parliament has exposed a lot that is wrong with the current ruling dispensation.

Do we have a Prime Minister who does not care for established parliamentary rules, regulations and traditions? The ongoing winter session of the Parliament is practically defunct because our ruling dispensation is in no mood to listen to the voices raised by the Opposition. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha rejects the motions submitted for the adjournment of any other business to discuss a matter of urgent public importance—demonetisation. The government seems to be in a hurry to pass individual bills without any serious deliberation.

Leaders of different opposition parties continuously gave motions of adjournments for several days, but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan kept on rejecting them without sighting any reasons and continued with house proceedings amidst the slogans from opposition benches. Nothing could have been more insensitive than not caring at all for the views expressed by senior leaders of opposition parties. As if it was not enough, on November 28, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced The Taxation Laws Second Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha as supplementary agenda without discussing it in Business Advisory Committee or giving any prior notice to the members of Parliament. Experts argue that this act of the government is against all the rules and established traditions.

The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha the next day without any discussion on it. Members of different political parties had given 11 notices for the amendment in this Bill and 7 of these proposed amendments needed Presidential Assent. The members were not allowed to move these seven amendments as recommendations to the President under Rule 81 of the Rules of Procedures of Lok Sabha. The Modi government did not hesitate to violate the mandatory provisions of the Constitution of India and the Rules of Procedures in passing the Bill. Under Ruled 82, it shall be binding that the minister shall inform the House in writing whether the recommendation of President for moving amendments is given, withheld or rejected.

Opposition members raised this issue again and again in the House, but their legitimate democratic rights were denied on the ground that the Bill being vital and urgent, there was no time to wait for President’s assent. The ruling dispensation did not bother that there is any provision for the exemption of a requirement of President’s approval under the veil of any grounds. It amounts to undermining the authority of President of India. So, we have a Prime Minister who has no hitch in ignoring parliament as well as the constitutional head of the nation.

We have a Prime Minister who is obsessed with his opinion that whatever has been done is done only in two and half years of his tenure and nothing was achieved in last 70 years. The Vice President of the main opposition party—the Congress—replied to a question often asked by Modi when he addressed his parliamentary party last Friday saying the Congress never gave India a Prime Minister who was a prisoner of his image. “We never gave India a Prime Minister who was ready to inflict such tremendous suffering on the people of India to protect his own persona. We never gave India a Prime Minister who based his entire policy making strategy on TRP's. We never gave India a Prime Minister who bypassed the experience of those sitting in the institutions.  The country has suffered tremendous damage as a result of the vanity and incompetence of our PM,” he said. 

There could be a division of opinion about demonetisation, but there is total unanimity among financial experts as well as the common masses that the policy has been implemented with unprecedented incompetence. The nation had never seen such utter confusion in the course of introducing something which is aimed at "giving relief to poor". The circulars issued on a daily basis by the government to change a decision taken a few hours back has created an atmosphere of grave distrust. You cannot trust the words of your own Prime Minister. You cannot trust your nation’s Reserve Bank. You cannot trust the safety of your money that is deposited in the banks, and you cannot even trust that the currency which you are being given will be valid for the long term.

More than anything else—the fear of economic recession, a definite fall in GDP and the loss of jobs that has already began—the real danger which India will face at least for a decade is that the psyche of the citizens will never be the same again. The sudden shock of demonetisation has injected a sense of deep distrust in the very system of fair governance. Prime Minister Modi is trying to build confidence in the minds of poor by portraying his policy anti-rich, but the fallout has started showing its signs already as millions of people in unorganised as well as organised sectors have already lost their livelihood.

Who wants such a vast gap between haves and have-nots? Who is for inequality—economic or social—anywhere in the world? It had been a dream of revolutionaries across the globe that poor captures the wealth of rich. There were instances when foot-soldiers of revolutions reached to the seats of power after tirelessly walking on a long road of their struggle. After holding the reins, they worked for creating a law abiding, peaceful and growth-oriented state. Never before any elected Prime Minister, anywhere in the world, has provoked the citizens of his country on the plank of a poor-rich divide, the way our Prime Minister is instigating. He perhaps believes only in polarization—whether it is in the name of religious communities, on the basis of cultural orientations, a self-coined definition of nationalism or fueling rich-poor sentiments. 

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