Many in India have been disappointed by the decision of Narendra Modi's government not to hold a winter session of Parliament, originally slated for this month, as authorities in the south Asian country grapple with massive farmer protests caused by the new legislations.
The public learnt of the decision thanks to a leaked letter from Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi to the Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Monday 14 December.
Joshi blamed “unprecedented” conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason the government chose to cancel the December sitting, which usually lasts around three weeks.
Chowdhury had written to the House Speaker Om Birla on 3 December with a request to convene a “short” winter session of Parliament to discuss the farm-related legislations.
In response to Chowdhury's letter, Joshi suggested that holding a parliamentary session during the winter months would be difficult because of the worsening COVID-19 situation.
“Winter months are already very critical for managing the pandemic because of a recent spurt in cases during the period, particularly in Delhi. At present, we are in the middle of December and a COVID-19 vaccine is expected very soon,” stated Joshi.
Delhi has been one of the worst-hit Indian cities by the COVID-19 pandemic. Joshi further claimed in his letter that the decision was taken after consulting with leaders of other political outfits in the Parliament.
However, Congress's chief whip in Rajya Sabha (the upper house) Jairam Ramesh cast doubt on the minister's claim and said that Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress Leader of Opposition in the chamber had not been consulted.
Joshi also said in his letter that the government will bring forward the next parliamentary sitting, the Budget Session, from February to January 2021.
‘Too Much Democracy’
Despite the government’s assurances, Indians on social media have lambasted the authorities for cancelling the sitting because, they believe, of reluctance to discuss the new laws in Parliament.
Several Indian users even mocked the government on the move while citing a remark made last week by Amitabh Kant, the chief executive of government think tank Niti Aayog, who said that “India has too much democracy”. Kant did indeed make this remark while speaking at an event organised in the middle of the farmers’ protests, but he added at the time that there was too much democracy to carry out “tough reforms”, and he claims now that his comments have been taken out of context. However, he continues to receive flak on social media.
No Winter Session of Parliament because "Too Much Democracy" !— Rachit Seth (@rachitseth) December 15, 2020
There is no need for a winter session when the ruling party does not discuss anything. #wintersession— Mrityunjay (@mrityunjay_sood) December 15, 2020
They dont care about farmers, students, doctors, nurses, workers and women. Pathetic!
Meanwhile, the farmers' protests against the two farm bills - the Essential Commodities Act, 2020, and the new electricity-related law - entered its 20th day on Tuesday. Although several farming outfits have started to come out in support of the federal government, protesting farmers at the Delhi border continue to demand that the new laws be repealed and legislation introduced to guarantee a minimum legal price (MSP) for their crops.