Stop indifference;debate, pass bills

We cannot but record with dismay that the most manifest aspect of the politics — to coincide with the last Budget Session of Parliament for the UPA-2 government — advanced by a combined Opposition was the two-day nationwide strike that began Wednesday. The most conspicuous feature of the first day of the strike was the atmosphere of naked violence unleashed in the Noida area of Uttar Pradesh on the outskirts of the nation’s capital.
Vivid photographs of cars burning and lying overturned as reckless (presumably) workers’ gangs roamed the streets of Noida cannot enthuse potential investors, especially those from overseas, that the country seeks to attract. It was evident that political parties that encourage such action have little interest in promoting a national sentiment for greater production. It is hard to see how employment can rise and prices brought down if economic activity is made to suffer through cussed political activities.
Especially since this is the last Budget Session before the next general election, in which important bills that vitally affect our people are to be debated, besides the Union Budget and the Railway Budget, it was incumbent on the government to engage in persuasion and negotiation in order to head off the strike or ensure that it remained symbolic and just reflected the day-to-day woes of the people who have suffered because of sustained inflation. There is no evidence that this happened.
Symbolising the government’s indifference in this regard was the prime-time discussion on Doordarshan on Wednesday night of a discussion on the responsibility and role of Prasar Bharti, in which the participants were led by minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari and included top representatives of the CPI(M) and BJP. This cannot but be called a misuse of Doordarshan on the eve of a major session of Parliament to detract attention from pressing national concerns. Indeed, such callous disregard of Prasar Bharti’s mandate calls for a discussion on the subject in Parliament, not in the cocooned environment of a television studio.
Legislation on food security, land acquisition for infrastructure building, investment facilitation in the insurance and pension sectors, the institution of the Lokpal, women’s reservation, and amendment of criminal laws to deter sexual crimes against women are up for discussion in the Budget Session. After Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde expressed regret on his “misunderstood” remark on “saffron terror”, the BJP says it will not obstruct Parliament. This is fortunate, for the main Opposition party has earned a reputation for obstruction for over a year. But if the all-in unity showed by various Opposition parties in calling for the bandh is sustained on the floor of the House, the government may not expect much respite.

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With the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan being iced due to the meeting between Kashmiri separatists and the Pakistani high commissioner, it may be worth recalling an episode from contemporaneous history.

As the old saying goes, “Can you say ‘boo’ to a goose?” Well, in India, we don’t waste our precious time booing geese. We reserve our boos for chief ministers. Each time the Prime Minister steps out to attend important functions in states that are still hanging on to their own non-BJP leaders (with time bombs ticking away), the crowds make sure nobody but Narendra Modi is heard.