A week long Janata Parliament concluded on Wednesday, in which 250 people from different civil society organisations participated, and asked the government to hold a longer session of Parliament so that important people-centric issues can be discussed in detail.
Several opposition party leaders, who participated in the concluding session, said there was a need for a common minimum programme to challenge the Central government on different issues and alleged that the present government has undermined the Parliament by not calling a session since March 22, when the nation-wide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“A common minimum programme should be prepared for the unity of opposition on different issues and bring on board civil society groups,” said Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary.
He said pillars of Indian democracy and the Republic are under attack and people’s right to information and food are almost defunct. “This battle against the government cannot be fought by one party or one movement,” he said, adding that CPI(M) will cooperate with all political parties on framing a common agenda.
K. Raju, who represented the Congress, was in agreement with Yechury’s suggestion on a common minimum programme and recalled that the first Janata Parliament was addressed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in 2019. He also said that the Congress would be working in future for a basic income by transferring money directly into bank accounts of poor people and for a universal public distribution system (PDS) without Aadhaar linkage.
Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha, Kodikunnil Suresh, said he was concerned about the number of ordinances promulgated by the Central government in the past five months; some of them having vital policy implications for Indian agriculture and the economy. He referred to three farm sector related ordinances, against which farmers are protesting in several parts of India including Punjab and Maharashtra.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said the Central government was looking to convert the on-going pandemic into an opportunity to disinvest in various national assets such as Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Coal India and the Indian Railways. “The Centre is looking to escape questioning and is therefore not convening the Parliament,” he said and added that the NDA has not given adequate relief to people during such extraordinary times.
RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said that there would be limited time available for the members to raise important issues as one house will run only for four hours every day and there would be a lot of government business to take care of as well in the limited time. Jha said he was apprehensive that Parliamentary forum would not be available to MPs to bring issues to the attention of the public. He said a common agenda of opposition parties would also be useful for his party in the upcoming elections in Bihar.
Aruna Roy, former member of National Advisory Council, said Janata Parliament which started on August 21 had passed crucial resolutions on issues of national importance including expanding MGNREGA, universalisation of PDS and right to free health and education. She also urged the political parties to raise people centric issues in the Parliament.