By Dr Siddhartha Sahu*
The Monsoon Session of Parliament this time has been most eventful. Scenes of confusion and chaos have become commonplace. Bills are often passed without serious debate or discussion. With frequent adjournments, the people of India are deprived of the fine debates and speeches that have been the hallmark of our parliamentary democracy. Amidst all the ruckus and din, the common man is left confused about important matters that affect the wellbeing of the country and her people. It is easy to dismiss the Opposition as opposing things just for the sake of opposition. The common man stuck between the Covid-19 pandemic and a floundering economy, is easily persuaded that India’s Opposition is redundant. Is it in our interest to have a strong and serious Opposition?
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is an oft quoted principle of democracy. In olden days, countries were governed by absolute monarchs. This was a system prone to the rule of tyranny and power, overwhelming the will of the people. As the world’s largest democracy, India as a nation has shown a strong commitment to respecting the will of it’s people. The dark days of emergency, when the executive usurped people’s liberties could not last for long. It could not last for long because of the strong and serious opposition to emergency from Opposition parties.
India is going through a gloomy phase. Two waves of Covid-19 have left many Indians mourning the death of a loved one. Many Indians continue to battle the physical and mental scars of having been infected with Covid-19. With a third wave imminent, there is a palpable sense of public fear and anxiety. Public health challenges are enormous. We are nowhere near vaccinating the entire country. Our children are at risk in the absence of a vaccine and lack of healthcare infrastructure. India is still in the learning process of getting its healthcare policy right. Every suggestion, every opinion and all support is needed for this. Most importantly, we need good suggestions from the Opposition parties of our country. At a time of Covid devastation, the Opposition seems least interested in debating public health policy of this country. The citizens of this country eagerly await to hear what is the policy outlook of Opposition parties on the public health situation in our country.
Shutdowns and lockdowns have shaken India’s economy to its core. Many people have lost their sources of livelihood. Many are struggling with skyrocketing fuel costs. Export earnings have taken a huge hit with poor global demand. Make no mistake, India is going through an economic downturn. The situation is so overwhelming, the responsibility of rehabilitation of our economy cannot be left to the ruling party alone. India badly needs to hear possible solutions to the economic crisis from Opposition parties too. Their collective wisdom will help the government and the people better weather the economic storm we face today.
India is facing many serious challenges of internal security. Naxalite activities are widespread over large parts of our country. As per the home minister’s reply in Parliament in 2020, 90 districts in 11 states were affected by left wing extremism. Kashmir is yet to settle down from the reorganization of 2019. Recent incidents of violence underscore how fragile peace is in the northeastern part of our country. Internal security is a vital matter that needs the active suggestions and wisdom of Opposition parties. The common man is left in a void ignorant of the policy and stand of our Opposition parties on internal security. Suggestions apart, the Opposition can play an important role facilitating dialogue and negotiation, thus encouraging extremists to rejoin the mainstream.
The recent advances by Taliban has brought a vast part of Afghanistan under their control. The painful memories of the plane hijacking at Kandahar, reminds us that the Taliban may be challenging from India’s external security perspective. The government has so far been silent on this serious matter. One hopes the Opposition will consider debating and discussing this issue to bring more clarity on our external security policy.
A strong and mature Opposition enables the government of the day to perform at its best. Constructive criticism and seriously reasoned suggestions on the part of the Opposition brings clarity to government policy. A vigilant Opposition safeguards the rights of citizens by preventing administrative overreach by the rulers of the day. The Covid pandemic is a crucial juncture for our democracy. A time which calls for the Opposition to be an active part of the solution to the country’s troubles.
The author is an orthopedic surgeon. He can be reached at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.