Showdown in parliament
A stormy start to Parliament’s Monsoon Session was expected anyway. That’s how the Indian Parliament functions. Every time the two houses assemble, there will be a backlog of contentious issues to be raised to put the government on the mat. This time, the governmental failure on the Covid front, the fuel price hike and, if nothing else, the farmer’s agitation against agriculture sector reforms were waiting to erupt. Yet, the icing on the cake came from the Pegasus Israeli spyware, with evidence cropping up over the communications system of hundreds of VIPs likely being kept under watch. The Opposition thwarted the introduction of the new ministers to Parliament by Prime Minister Modi. While nothing worthwhile happened, the Lok Sabha session was adjourned to July 22.
Fact of the matter is, that in session after session, nothing meaningful happens for most part in Parliament, even as its conduct involves a huge expenditure of Rs 10 to 15 crore for a single day at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh per minute. Every minute is thus precious. Fights inside the two houses are followed by fights as if to prove a point. Members get away with their act. Discussion, which is what such representative bodies are all about, is more often a casualty. The result is that several key legislations are passed in the din without discussion. At the session’s start, Prime Minister Modi had urged the Opposition to ask the sharpest questions to the government, but also allow ministers to answer these questions.
The report about the Israeli spyware was published by the Indian media close to the start of the Parliament session so that it has maximum effect. At the same time, this is projected as something that is a new assault on the democratic system. Fact is, each individual is under watch and no telephone link is secure from snooping by governmental agencies. Aware of this, no senior politicians ever discussed confidential matters over their own phones. The Pegasus spyware is purchased by governments across continents because spying is part of the governance process. No government can exist without spying on what an enemy country is up to. But to spy on its own subjects is to violate the very essence of the Constitution. Intelligence agencies do snoop on phones of suspects in terrorist activities and that is how they prevent terror attacks. But snooping on political rivals is unwarranted as this infringes on the right to privacy of every individual. However, disrupting parliament proceedings is not the only way to press a point. Members should make their points in a reasoned debate and expose the wrongs of the government.