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Will Parliament’s monsoon session address COVID-19 management & situation on the LAC?

Indications suggest that clarity on issues the country is grappling with will not be forthcoming

Will Parliament’s monsoon session address COVID-19 management & situation on the LAC?

Abid Shah

Are we going to be any wiser through the monsoon session of Parliament, beginning tomorrow? A session that has already been delayed because of the clouds brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and which is starting with several restrictions for the members, should ideally reflect upon what all went wrong. And it should address the question as to how did we err since Parliament met last to let the pathogen throw the lives and livelihood of over a billion people out of gear, leaving almost everybody to virtually his or her fate?

Add to this the fact that the country still does not seem to have any credible roadmap to steer itself out of the mess created by a nearly six-month-long mayhem unleashed by the virus.

Only on Saturday, or September 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted people to be cautious and observe usual safeguards like wearing masks until a proper drug or antidote is found. This makes the current uncertainty look impossibly difficult with no visible early end to it. Thus, the need for deliberations in Parliament becomes all the more urgent. But there are little signs of it, and still less chances of finding a way out of the grim crisis.

Yet, it’s a fact that whenever in the past the country was hit by an extraordinary crisis, the then Prime Ministers had made suo motu statements in Parliament. This was also the case with the first BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In December 2002, Vajpayee took the initiative to address Parliament about that year’s intense drought where interest on farmers’ loan was waived off in a few states affected by the drought. Besides this, a few other reliefs were also offered. Compared to the drought during those times, the Coronavirus crisis looks to be far bigger. And a statement by Modi on the floor of Parliament about this could well be quite in order. But the question is whether he will oblige the House and take members, and through them the country, in confidence.

There are going to be no clear answers to this or other related issues until the session gets underway for the first few days at least. But indications are that Parliament is going to have a lacklustre sitting through the next couple of weeks or so. Elaborate restrictions and advisories are already in place where among other steps taken, the Question Hour has been done away with. Yet, the biggest question remains about the stakes that an unlikely Coronavirus outbreak has thrown up.

Unlikely because it originated and rolled in from a neighbouring country. This placed India at least supposedly in a better position to show a greater ability to not only take adequate safeguards and precautions but in turn also guide the rest of the world about the ways to ward off its lethal impact.

Subsequent events on the LAC in Ladakh, courtesy China, also show that Beijing’s intentions towards its rather unsuspecting neighbour deserved to have been watched and read better. But this obviously did not turn out to be the case when Chinese incursions in Eastern Ladakh began from May 5. Thus, this too calls for answers in Parliament during this monsoon session.

Yet, there is little chance of the Government of India taking up the Chinese manoeuvres at the border during the upcoming session. A news portal quoted a senior central minister about this on September 12 as saying, "Our government has never run away from any debate or discussion. But these are sensitive matters concerning the nation. Strategic issues concerning national security and integrity are not discussed openly."

Thus, it will be too much to expect that the huge issues, that the country has of late come to grapple with, will get any clarity in the monsoon session of Parliament.

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