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Home » Opinion » Repealed Without Debate Or Discussion, Farm Laws Deserved A Better Burial

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Repealed Without Debate Or Discussion, Farm Laws Deserved A Better Burial

The three controversial Acts, which resulted in lakhs of farmers taking to the streets in one of independent India’s strongest and longest anti-government movements, were finally consigned to the dustbin of history the same way they had been brought – without any debate or discussion.

Parliament Winter Session: The government is expected to introduce 36 legislative Bills.
The Union Budget for 2022-23 will be presented on February 1. File photo of Parliament building.

SHOWING unusual alacrity on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, Lok Sabha and then Rajya Sabha on Monday passed with voice vote – without any debate and in a matter of less than three hours – the bills introduced by the Narendra Modi government for repealing the three controversial farm laws.

The government and the presiding officers of the two Houses of Parliament did not agree to the demands of the Opposition for a debate and discussion on important issues related to the three laws, as well as, other issues concerning the demands of the protesting farmers, including statutory backing for the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

The three controversial Acts, which resulted in lakhs of farmers taking to the streets in one of independent India’s strongest and longest anti-government movements, were finally consigned to the dustbin of history the same way they had been brought – without any debate or discussion.

Not just that, while passing the original bills, the government, despite demands from the Opposition, had chosen not to refer the same to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for detailed scrutiny.

The bills deserved a better burial, with proper debate and discussion, which could have also been utilised by the government to assuage the feeling of hurt among the protesting farmers. But that wasn’t the case to be.

ALSO READ: Farm Laws Repeal Bill Passed Without Discussion During Parliament Winter Session; Congress Leaders Upset

Since coming to power in 2014, the Modi government has worked hard to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of its proposed laws by the department-related standing committees.

As per data put out by PRS Legislative Research, while the percentage of bills referred to Parliamentary Committees in the fourteenth Lok Sabha (2004-2009) when Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government was in power was 60 per cent, it went up to 71 per cent in the fifteenth Lok Sabha (2009-2014) and when UPA-2 was in power at the Centre.

However, the number came down to 27 per cent in the first term of the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government (2014-19) and has now further fallen to just 12 per cent in the seventeenth Lok Sabha, the second term of the Modi government.

The absence of proper debate and discussion inside the two Houses shows the lack of importance that the government is ready to accord the supreme legislative branch of the Constitution.

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It also means the elected MPs aren’t given enough time to speak for their constituents and the marginalised classes in the one place that should have been their arena – the Parliament. Imagine what would Atal Bihari Vajpayee be remembered best for if not for his speeches inside the Parliament? Or Jawaharlal Nehru or Sushma Swaraj or Indira Gandhi (even though she was never considered to be a natural orator) or the mercurial Lalu Prasad Yadav or Somnath Chatterjee?

After today’s hurried passage of the bills, one can’t but see the truth in the recent words of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana when he said absence of adequate debates in the legislature was a matter of concern and reflective of the “sorry state of affairs”.

“Now, (it is a) sorry state of affairs. We see the legislations, a lot of gaps, a lot of ambiguity in making the laws, there is no clarity in laws. We don’t know what purpose the laws are made for, which is creating a lot of litigation, inconvenience and loss to the Government as well as inconvenience to the public,” the CJI had said in August.

ALSO READ: 12 Rajya Sabha MPs Suspended For ‘Unruly Behaviour’ In Previous Parliament Session

He was comparing the functioning of the legislature, especially the Parliament, in recent times to the earlier times when the Houses used to witness excellent and very informative debates.

That he made the remarks days after, in the Monsoon Session, the Parliament had passed 20 bills in the Lok Sabha and 19 in the Rajya Sabha, without any meaningful discussion on most of them was significant.

And what was the response of the Legislature to the CJI’s words of caution? As is their natural response, the leaders of several parties reportedly joined hands together to criticise the CJI – the word use in one newspaper headline was “express annoyance” .

It would have been better if these leaders had shown us why the CJI was wrong in his words. Holding a detailed debate before repealing the three laws would have been the perfect response.

For the government, forcing the two Houses to pass the Bills aimed at repealing the three laws without any debate, shows its extreme short-sightedness and its fear in addressing the elephant in the room.

With some very good orators in its ranks, the Modi government and the BJP could have used the opportunity to send out a message to the protesting farmers that it understands their anguish and is ready to hold a meaningful dialogue with them.

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However, what can one expect from a government whose Legislative Department doesn’t possibly know that the full form of MSP isn’t Minimum Sale Price but Minimum Support Price! Whenever you find time, do read the Bill introduced in Parliament by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to understand why the government may have shot itself in the foot. For, as activist and a key voice for the farmers Yogendra Yadav pointed out, the language of the repeal Bills was such that would have looked more appropriate if the government was bringing in the laws and not repealing them.

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