Summon Parliament, now – editorials
With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in India, Parliament’s budget session ended abruptly on March 23, 12 days ahead of schedule. This was the correct decision at the time. The rules of social distancing were not being applied; there was speculation about the possible spread of the disease among parliamentarians (parliamentarians); and the nation soon entered a confinement.
But a lot has happened since then. India faces the gravest public health, economic and humanitarian challenge in its independent history. This has led to a series of immediate and far-reaching decisions by the government. Migrant workers across the country head to their home countries and are largely subject to what can only be termed as quite arbitrary orders from the central government. India is now opening, but this is expected to increase the number of cases. Throughout this process, while the government has addressed periodic press briefings and the prime minister has spoken to the nation, there has been no institutional responsibility. It is time to call Parliament and perhaps even call a special session.
In this context, the presidents of both houses met on Monday and proposed a set of options, including the possibility of a virtual Parliament using the technology. This initiative is positive. But in the most immediate context, the big question is logistics. A column in this newspaper had suggested the possibility of using the Central Hall for the Lok Sabha sessions, and holding the Rajya Sabha sessions in the Lok Sabha chambers. The Lok Sabha speaker and Rajya Sabha President have asked their officials to explore this option as a way to enforce the rules of social distancing. With air travel and limited passenger trains in operation, it is also possible that MPs will arrive in Delhi. The fact that the standing parliamentary committee on internal affairs is scheduled to meet on June 3 at Parliament House is also a sign that other committees may be activated soon, either through direct meetings or via secure digital media. Of course, you have to take risks and precautions. But democracy is too valuable and Parliament is too valuable an institution to withstand a national crisis. India’s battle against the pandemic and its economic revival needs national acceptance; It also requires that the executive be responsible. And this can only happen in Parliament.