“Parliamentary democracy is going through its darkest days, but we are committed to protecting the Constitution”: Fauzia Khan
The current parliamentary session has seen the acrimonious exchange between the Treasury and the opposition benches. NCP Rajya Sabha MP Fauzia Khan urges the government to listen to the opposition when it raises issues such as inflation, rising unemployment rate, national security, etc. Extracts from an interview.
Most members of the opposition expressed concern that they were not allowed to raise questions during the session of parliament. What was your experience?
Our Parliament is the guardian of our democracy. It is the primary responsibility of all of us to preserve, protect and defend the ideals and values for which so many freedom fighters fought, went to jail, fought and died for. Regardless of any political ideology, egos, or ambitions, we must all stand up for this freedom and these ideals. What was sad during this parliamentary session was how the Indian government crushes opposition voices and attacks the sanctity of Parliament. Bills were passed in less than ten minutes each on average, and the government stifled opposition voices and struggled to cover up any form of democratic protest.
We, parliamentarians, in both houses, were elected to express the concerns of the common man and to contribute to the legislative process, regardless of which camp we find ourselves on. You also have to look at how the government undermines the importance of parliamentary business and standing committees, which is proven by the way the three farm bills were passed and the fact that very few bills are sent for consideration. . Problems with our farmers, serious concerns about the economy and inflation, rising unemployment, national security; all are above the party lines. But right now this BJP-led government and those who run the business have made it clear that they don’t believe in these things. Are the opposition’s concerns about espionage unfounded? Should we wait for a moment when the honor of our women is compromised, when we realize that our rooms and bathrooms are monitored through our cell phones? When France and Israel can open an investigation into this sensitive issue, what does our government have to hide?
What were the questions you planned to ask or raise that you were unable to because of the impasse?
I would first like to say that the government is running away to answer questions and discuss the topics that matter most today, from the Pegasus dossier which could directly concern national security, agricultural laws, economics, soaring prices, inflation etc. . Despite various demands from the opposition, the government has simply chosen to ignore them. We opposition MPs do not obstruct but we want to discuss these urgent issues and we do not want to remain silent while the institutions are bulldozed. To wait until we are only discussing what the government wants is unfair!
I, individually, wanted to raise several issues, for example, the right to health (especially after living the pandemic), the need for gender-neutral rape laws, parental leave allowances, the abolition of Jat Panchayats and many others. I also wanted to expose cases of corruption and misuse of public money and make valuable suggestions for amendments to the gun law, juvenile justice law, etc.
What is striking is how the answers are deposited on the floor of the house. They are vague and incomplete and this is something that I myself have experienced many times. For example, when I asked a question about ad spend, the answer wasn’t even close to what a correct answer should have been. Another case, which I find extremely regrettable, is when my colleague Ms. Chaya Verma asked relevant questions about the Rafale deal or the Pegasus spyware or other matters, which the government probably felt embarrassed to ask. to respond. They just took them out of the questions listed, even after they were voted on at number one or two. She wrote to the president about it. I hope that justice will be done to this extremely relevant complaint. I have to say that our parliamentary democracy is going through its darkest days, but we are committed to fighting for the nation and protecting the Constitution of India.
The government blamed the opposition for this problem. How do you respond to that?
The problem is that the government is not ready to discuss the relevant issues. He persists in discussing only what he wants. There is no respect for the views and opinions of the opposition. Isn’t it the constitutional duty of the opposition to criticize? They call it “intellectual jaundice!” I have to say that if the opposition stops criticizing and just applauds the government’s so-called achievements, the book of democracy itself will have to be closed and put aside. I would call it top notch narcissistic sleep.
The opposition is not just a few MPs. Each parliamentarian is the voice of a percentage of the population. Silencing the voice of a parliamentarian is like silencing the voice of an entire constituency he represents. How long will the government continue to mourn the last government? He has the People’s Mandate and now he is expected to deliver it. The Finance Minister’s response to the Tribunal Reforms Bill was simply the same rhetoric that the previous Congressional government had done. And therefore we do not have the right to question ourselves about the autonomy of justice. How is it relevant to our questions today and have we lost the right to question forever? It is evident that values are compromised and democratic institutions have been under attack since 2014. When we talk about espionage, it reflects how our national security is compromised.
During the monsoon session, the government introduced the Essential Defense Services Bill, 2021 and it is needless to say how hastily passed it. Speaking of the bill, I asked the government that if the underlying intention is to ensure the safety and security of our nation, then how can spying on citizens be authorized from another side? And within seconds my microphone was muted. A gross majority cannot dictate how parliament works. It is the government’s responsibility to make sure the house is functioning. As my colleague Mr. Derek O Brien rightly says and we firmly believe in it, “the opposition must have its say and the government must have what it wants. ”
I will say that any ordinary man who applies a little logic can see through the government’s desperation to announce its compulsion to project a single chef through pictures on packets of free food and vaccination certificates. Her thirst for self-credit reflects that she wants to hide her failures. The word “free” is a complete disregard for the dignity of the work of the poorest man in this nation, who pays not only with his sweat and blood, but also with our nation’s fiscal mechanism. He is an equal owner of this country. So to project that as charity is to demean his respect. A lot of these things can be done if there is wealth around. But not when the fight against poverty is our priority. Each digital banner is like snatching food from a hungry mouth! And the government’s priorities lie in building the Central Vista. He must clearly define his priorities.
You have raised the need for free education for children who have lost their parents in the ongoing pandemic. What other observation do you make about the pandemic and what other interventions do you want the government to do?
India has been grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year now. Almost all citizens have been affected in one way or another. Most people have witnessed the deaths of their loved ones and more have been left unemployed due to the dire effects of the pandemic on our economy. The death toll in India has risen dramatically as the pandemic has progressed, leaving thousands of children orphaned. While the Prime Minister’s Office recently announced a program that would financially help these orphaned children, this program would only apply once they reach the age of 18. I wrote a letter to the Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to announce a reservation for all orphan and destitute children who must be applied vertically at every stage of their education i.e. from pre- primary to post-graduate. Such a program should take into account all orphaned and destitute children, as the situation will only worsen after the end of the pandemic. This reservation system would not only empower these children, but would also provide them with the academic support and essential advice provided by educational establishments.
I also called for a short discussion in Parliament on the need for rapid research on post-Covid complications like mucormycosis. We all understand that doctors were forced to administer drugs like Remdesivir, Enoxaparin, Ivermectin, Favipiravir, Amphotericin, Apixaban, as life-saving options back then. However, the government must now conduct a national investigation into the long-term effects of these drugs, in order to better prepare, especially for children. The emergency use of industrial bottles recovered from the scrap metal and used to administer oxygen could have been the cause of the black fungus. This research may strengthen our ability to address the short- and long-term post-covid impact on patients. The government also needs to make serious decisions in terms of post-covid or post-containment distress while simultaneously tackling soaring commodity prices. And the government refuses to discuss these issues in Parliament.