Herald View: Haste makes waste, faster not better
On several bills govt failed to consult stakeholders, ignored red flags and ignored reservations of even its allies in NDA, precipitating resignation of Harsimrat Kaur from Cabinet over farm bills
Abewildering array of bills were passed by Parliament in about 10 days with little or no debate and scrutiny. The haste and urgency with which the legislative business was pushed by the Government in the monsoon session and the manner in which Parliament was adjourned on the pretext of the pandemic have outraged observers. But predictably people and the media have reacted with indifference to the emasculation of Parliament. The disconnect between Parliament and people have been growing for the past several decades and with mainstream media, particularly TV channels, ignoring parliamentary business, the disconnect now seems complete.
This has arguably enabled an authoritarian government to bulldoze legislations through Parliament. People at large show little interest or understanding about the legislative process. They have deliberately been kept in the dark by drafting laws in a language that few can follow. While the Government goes through the motion of inviting suggestions from the public, an indifferent media have done little to lead any meaningful discussion on the draft legislations. It is an irony that people, for whose benefit the laws are made, should remain so ignorant of the provisions that affect them. On several bills the government failed to consult stakeholders, ignored red flags and ignored reservations of even its allies in the NDA, precipitating the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur from the Cabinet on the issue of farm bills. The Government also ignored pleas of even allies like the Biju Janata Dal and the TRS to send the bills to the select committee for scrutiny. Laws with far-reaching impact on workers, companies, taxation, NGO’s and healthcare have been passed even when the opposition were missing from Parliament, having decided to boycott the session. While the legitimacy of the laws, some of them wantonly encroaching into the rights of the states, will always remain in doubt, it is unlikely that the President, who is not expected to be a rubber stamp, will return the legislations to the Government with the advice that they be put through more rigorous scrutiny and improved.
Several legislations undoubtedly have some well-meaning provisions. But they are invariably outweighed by ones which are insidious and encroach into the rights of the states, the individual, workers and the NGO’s. And while they all pass for reforms and have been hailed by some sections as path-breaking, they are invariably designed to help the corporate sector and empower the government itself with the authority to exercise more control every section of society. The amendment in the FCRA rules will affect some 22,000 odd NGO’s in the country receiving foreign grants. And the idea clearly is for the Government to have the power to selectively harass some NGO’s to the exclusion of others, more willing to do the biddings of the ruling party. It is an irony that while political parties are now free to receive foreign donations and spend them as they like, more stringent restrictions are being placed on NGO’s.
Similarly, the amendments in taxation rules allow corporate bodies to donate to the PM CARES fund but withdraws similar incentive to donate to the chief ministers’ relief funds. While amended labour laws propose to extend social security to gig workers and migrant workers, they also make it easier for companies to fire workers on virtually any pretext, dilute workers’ rights and make legal strikes impossible. Legislations enacted in haste usually turn out to be bad. With the country grappling with multiple crises, the haste is even more suspect.