Farm Bills: Staining Democracy
The unruly scenes in Rajya Sabha during the passage of farm bills do not augur well for any democracy. Undoubtedly, democracy has given us the right to dissent, but it has not given us the power to protest in a violent manner. At the same time, rulers in a democracy are bound by certain laws. Any violation of those laws and norms surely raises questions about the intent of the power, occupying the throne. A closer look into the incident that took place in Rajya Sabha on Sunday last, clearly proves that both the ruling and the opposition parties have made some serious mistakes which led to ruckus in the upper house. Both sides have forgotten the golden rule that two wrongs can’t make a right.
Protests carried out by the opposition members in Rajya Sabha, were clearly against the high standards followed in the house of democracy. Going against the law, the opposition members started making videos of the ugly scenes inside the house. The law clearly says that such an act is punishable. The rule book has barred any honourable member from taking photographs inside the house until and unless he is permitted by the presiding officer. The law has been made keeping security concerns in mind. Not so long ago, a member of parliament was even suspended for violating this rule. So, this time too, there is no reason for treating the offenders differently. The violators should be punished, treating the matter as a serious breach of security. Secondly, the members cannot dictate the proceedings of the house. However, few members violated the rule by virtually asking the presiding officer to adjourn the house for the day. Last but not the least is the efforts by the opposition MPs to manhandle the presiding officer, tearing the rule book and standing on the table which acts as a makeshift office of the Rajya Sabha secretariat while the house is in session.
Nonetheless, it also can’t be overlooked that in a parliamentary democracy, the standard practice to pass important bills is through the act of voting, especially when there is limited difference in the numbers between the ruling and the opposition members. The number game in Rajya Sabha became further tightened as the Shiromoni Akali Dal (SAD), the oldest ally of BJP and an important constituent of the ruling coalition decided to vote against the bills. In such a situation, it was not right to pass the bills by voice vote. The rule book categorically states that even if a single member asks for division, voting will take place to ensure the passage of the bill.
Retrospection reveals that the differences of the said bills were not so large that it could not be resolved through discussion. On its part, the government could have initiated wide ranging discussion with all the stakeholders before passing the farm bills. At the same time, the opposition should have registered their protests in a more dignified manner. But as both sides were unwilling to budge an inch from their positions, it turned out to be a black day for Indian democracy.