Synopsis: Parliamentary proceedings should operate virtually to ensure the voices of all sections of the country are heard. Many other countries are doing the same.
The legislature which is the third arm of the state seems to be missing when there are as many as 306 districts now with a positivity of 20 percent or higher. The executive and the judiciary can be seen and heard in the public health emergency.
- Recently, Congress MP and its leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury have written a letter to the President and the LS Speaker. They asked for a special session to discuss the response to Covid-19. This marked Parliament’s absence in the crisis.
- Earlier, Mallikarjun Kharge had sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the RS chairman. He asked for virtual parliamentary standing committee meetings.
How has the world responded to the functioning of parliament and opposition suggestions amid a pandemic?
For instance, many other democracies across the world have found ways for their parliaments to carry on gathering amid the pandemic.
- Firstly, some democracies used conventional ways and continued to meet physically, but with restrictions. Some switched to virtual meetings with the help of technologies that allowed remote working.
- Secondly, the UK has adopted hybrid models. In this, a mix of members is present in the chamber and others participate by video conference. Many states have had to change laws and relax procedures, reset minimum number rules, and rearrange venues.
- In India, the government showed little or no urgency for parliamentary proceedings. It has shown high resistance to suggestions and interferences by Opposition leaders.
- For example, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suggestions were quickly disregarded by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan earlier.
- Firstly, it is very important for governments to listen, learn and correct errors to find the best way forward. The response to a national health crisis needs the participation of all the people’s representatives, across states and party.
- Secondly, the virus has brought death and distress to every constituency. To battle this, MPs must group ideas and resources, ask questions and apply the check and balance.
- Thirdly, the House should reopen its doors virtually to ensure that the executive does not remain limited to echo chambers of its own making.
- In a shared crisis, one-sided responses are terribly insufficient and even counter-productive. Parliament must return as a space for a wider discussion. The government must take the lead and make this happen.
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