The monsoon session of Parliament ended on 23rd September. In his first interview after the monsoon session, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla discussed in detail with Hindustan Times’ Saubhadra Chatterjee the challenges faced during the Corona era, how the bill was passed and the allegations of the opposition. So let’s read the edited part of Om Birla’s interview …
Question: During the Corona epidemic, the activities of the Parliament lasted for 10 consecutive days. What message has the house been able to send across the country?
Answer: Parliament is a top body of democracy. It has spread the message of democracy in all other institutions. Our MPs are elected by the maximum number of voters and each MP represents the ambitions and aspirations of 10-15 lakh people, so we try to give the MPs as much time as possible to express their views and raise their issues. We do. There was also a message that we have tried to conduct the parliamentary session as much as possible. There is room for debate, disagreement or disagreement but everything should be done while maintaining the parliamentary setting.
Q: In the midst of the Corona epidemic and the wide political divide, how difficult was it for you to manage the house?
Answer: It was very difficult. If the corona virus had spread rapidly in Parliament and affected a large number of MPs, we would have had no choice but to close Parliament completely and it would have sent a wrong signal to the country. Our constitutional obligation during the conduct of Parliament, our responsibility was to ensure the highest level of protection. So we have tried to implement all the safety guidelines. I think we have managed to run more sessions.
Our greatest achievement was that we should not have stopped it all of a sudden until the monsoon session was over and there was no atmosphere of fear in the house. We have shortened the session, but only after completing most of our work.
Q: We’ve seen a lot of new things in this session, not like the weekend, MPs from one house sitting in another house.
Answer: I have told the details to the Chairman of Rajya Sabha. We explored various alternatives, tested resources, other buildings as well, but in the end we found that we could conduct the session in Parliament on our own. This unprecedented arrangement also inspired some virtual elements as each house saw what the other house was doing.
Q: Opposition parties have raised concerns that bills are being passed too quickly without parliamentary committees examining them.
Answer: It is the job of the government to bring the bill and it is our responsibility to ensure maximum debate on the bill. We try to allocate time to debate each bill. When a sensation cannot be formed on a subject, we try hard to form a sensation. I can, however, guarantee that as far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, the business activities (executive) of the House were decided on the basis of a large sens reduction. All bills, including ordinances, were covered on a sensory basis.
It is true that several parties wanted to send the bills to the House Committee for reconsideration and the government claimed that they kept the bill in the public domain for review. Both the government and the opposition have differing views. My job is to oversee the argument, which is decided on the basis of sens minimization.
Q: When you are talking about the debate, it is also true that many issues like economy, GST, migration of migrant workers have not been discussed in Parliament.
A: I want to assure people that I was ready to discuss all these issues in the meeting. The government was also ready. But there was a lack of time. There were also concerns about the growing Covid-19 case. So when the government was ready, we could not discuss many issues. But I would like to add that in this session we have discussed the most important issues like the Corona epidemic. In the future I will try to make sure that most of the issues are discussed.
Q: How was your experience in this special session?
Answer: This House cannot function without the cooperation of the members. In a multi-party system, our elected representatives come up with different political ideologies and beliefs. My responsibility is to keep MPs separate from their political affiliation. Separate Indian democracy should be a vibrant democracy. If I see a big difference in an issue, I try to make sense of it and try to gauge the mood at home.