The Indian parliament rarely makes news for the right reasons. With this backdrop, the news of a largely productive Lok Sabha, which worked for 60 hours while it was scheduled for 37, in the curtailed monsoon session is music to the ears. Ushering in an era of big-ticket reforms, the Narendra Modi government in this session gave Indian farmers the freedom to sell what they produce in markets chosen by them at prices determined by them through the passage of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment And Protection) Agreement On Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Amendment to 1955 Essential Commodities Bill. Not to rest on the laurels, the government further ensured that both businesses and the labour force get a fair deal in the country, with the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, the Code On Social Security and the Industrial Relations Code turning into laws. No mean feat was making the FCRA Amendment Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill turn into laws.
The floor management in ensuring that, in Zero Hour, 370 MPs raise issues; 88 of them speak well past midnight on one of the days, ask ministers 181 questions using Rule 377 and 855 and government answering 2,300 unstarred questions in the lower house of the parliament cannot be lauded enough. Besides managing the numbers in the upper house where the BJP-led NDA is yet shy of a majority, this smooth functioning can be attributed to the suspension of eight rowdy Rajya Sabha members for the rest of the session. The rule book for both the houses of the parliament and, more importantly, its execution should always have been this strict or more. Since the day live broadcast of proceedings of the parliament began in the 1990s, a chunk of the membership of the central legislature — as much as state legislative bodies — have come to take it for an opportunity to display brawn and score brownie points, lest their respective constituencies watching television should construe them as unworthy of their votes. Whatever political parties may fill the government and the opposition benches, the will of numbers in a democracy is unexceptionable. If the opposers do not like a certain proposition, they cannot be allowed to make resist the ayes with a brawl rather than with their dissenting nays. Any raucous behaviour warrants an instant invocation of marshals and suspension of the guilty. At the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh of taxpayers’ money spent per minute, this monsoon session had Rs 90 crore well spent.
If the International Commission of Jurists has said the amended FCRA law is incompatible with international obligations, its concerns may well be relegated to the nearest dustbin. After all, the countries that dominate these global busybodies are on a suicidal path, with multiculturalism having turned the UK nearly ungovernable, the welcome accorded to Syrian refugees by the Angela Merkel administration wrecking German society and the United States, protected by two vast oceans on either side, beginning to feel the heat of the community that first sets sail abroad in search of greener pastures and, then on arrival, asks for the destination nation to turn ‘green’. Europe may want to kill itself; it has no right to impose its sanctimonious code on India and other parts of the world that are more prone to turning into a Sudan or Nigeria. In fact, the Modi government has still not done enough to stop foreign powers from interfering in Indian affairs. Conversion by missionaries is among their relatively benign acts. What India is struggling to find a solution to is the problem of indirect participation of West-funded NGOs in politics. While they are silently but dangerously altering the country’s demography, the clear and present danger is holding the entire nation ransom every now and then with picketing, demonstrations and finally rioting. The passage of the FCRA Amendment Bill in the parliament is rather a missed opportunity in the absence of any change in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and non-existence of one nationally applicable law to govern bodies of activists.