By Abhishek Jha:
The disruptions in parliament are a unique challenge. The party that resorts to it argues that it is an inevitable measure that has to be taken in order to force the government to listen to its demands. Indian Express, which has published statements from Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj in light of their new-found desire for debate in parliament, quotes Jaitley as having said on January 30, 2011 that, “Parliament’s job is to conduct discussions. But many a time, Parliament is used to ignore issues and in such situations, obstruction of Parliament is in the favour of democracy. Therefore parliamentary obstruction is not undemocratic.”
The Congress, with an almost vindictive zeal, is pursuing the same strategy and did not allow the parliament to function for over 90% of the time. This disruption, however, costs the taxpayer a great deal of money. While the NDTV estimates that a total washout of the monsoon session might lead to a loss of Rs 35 crore, TOI estimates that the figure might be close to Rs 260 crore. It is true that the BJP has landed itself in scams for which it must do more than absolving itself of all responsibility. However, if the opposition wants to present itself as being capable of better politics than the present government, it must prove that. Sloganeering would work better outside the parliament where the common man can be made aware of each passing day that the demand for action against the tainted ministers is not met. Disrupting the parliament has not only stalled discussion and the passing of several important bills but is also costing us a huge sum of money every minute.
It goes without saying that crores have been wasted over the years in a similar manner. If this had not happened, budget cuts in education would not be needed, farmer suicides could be stopped with more assistance to farmers, better healthcare could be provided; the list goes on. If disruptions in the parliament were to stop even now, a lot of problems in the country can be addressed.
There are also important bills that need to be discussed and passed and are suffering from this standoff. An amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Bill is listed for consideration. It amends certain categories of actions and adds certain new ones to be treated as offence. The Mental Health Care Bill replaces a previous Act to promote access to mental health care. More reservation for women in panchayats and urban local bodies is aimed by another bill. These are pressing issues that need urgent attention too. But that is possible only when any discussion takes place in the parliament.
It is fortunate that the data about monetary loss – however irregular the calculation might appear now – resulting from disruption in parliament has been brought forward to the public. At least we know that the loss is in the tune of crores and this “disruption” could itself be the size of one of those scams. As the common man watches the two enemies shake hands over this, perhaps he will take a hint and bid goodbye to both of them.