The decision to skip the winter session of Parliament is unfortunate. There is no justifiable reason for not holding the customary annual winter session. The Covid-19 pandemic ought not to be reason for dispensing with the session. When much of human activity, including Government business, continues near-normal during the pandemic, holding a short session of Parliament ought not have posed any insurmountable problem.
Technological advances in communications have further facilitated the conduct of business from distance. Work-from-home has now become the new normal. Long-distance participation in proceedings of the House is now available, with the use of secure information technological platforms. Not unlike the monsoon session, held at a time when the pandemic was raging strong, all necessary precautions could have been taken. Yes, a few MPs contracted the infection while a couple of watch-and-ward personnel too fell sick, yet that cannot be sufficient grounds for dispensing with the entire session.
Social distancing could be enforced by seating fewer than the usual number of members in the House. Separate timings for the meeting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and allowing internet links for most members to participate in the proceedings from their respective homes, etc., were obvious precautions. Even suspending oral questions due to the difficult logistics involved in consulting domain experts in respective ministries would have been acceptable. But not so the outright excision of a full winter session.
Indeed, a Government more forthcoming in keeping the country informed, and eager to enlist its support in taking tough decisions on some of the more ticklish issues, such as the on-going stalemate over the farmers’ protest, would have welcomed the opportunity a winter session afforded to take the people into confidence. The Government missed an opportunity to present its case to the country, and to counter the Opposition propaganda, by deciding to forgo the most important and most visible forum of Parliament.
In its arrogance, it gives short shrift to participatory government process, forfeiting an opportunity to carry the people along on the major concerns assailing them currently. The session would have helped release a lot of pent-up feelings over the alleged Government stubbornness on the farm reforms and the resulting inability to sell them to the actual stakeholders who are now amassed in strength at the borders of the national capital.
Above all, nixing the winter session shows scant respect for the sacrosanct forum which is the life-blood of our participatory democracy. Indeed, in a once-in-a-century crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, holding the session would have been all the more essential in order to reassure the people about the measures taken to fight the virus, and the blueprint readied for the nation-wide anti-corona vaccination. The decision to forgo the winter session reflects the growing tendency of the ruling party to take the people for granted, to bypass the Parliament and to accord the divided Opposition scant respect. This is highly regrettable.