On Friday, Parliament convened for its Budget Session
On Friday, Parliament convened for its Budget Session. The pandemic shortened the Budget Session last year, and the winter session was not held at all. This makes the current session even more significant, for it is not just the Union Budget 2021-22 which needs to be tabled, discussed and passed, but a range of other issues which merit greater deliberation in the space which symbolises the expression of popular sovereignty.Unfortunately, the Budget Session has started off with a note of discord — with most Opposition parties boycotting the President’s address to register their resistance to the farm laws and the Centre’s handling of the protests. Instead of the government skirting a debate or the Opposition walking out, it is crucial to have a structured discussion on agriculture, reforms, protests and what happened on January 26 in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Remember, it was because the legislative process was fast-tracked that apprehensions about the laws deepened. An open discussion — with both supportive and critical points of views being expressed freely — will help send a signal that the appetite for debate is alive, and assure farmers that their concerns are being articulated in Parliament.India has faced a national security, public health and economic crisis over the past year. And each of these elements needs greater deliberation too. The standoff with China has persisted — and a lot has happened since raksha mantri Rajnath Singh last briefed Parliament. The government would do well to put out a detailed statement on the exact state of play both in the western and eastern sectors, and what it plans to do to oust China from Indian territory. The pandemic has abated — but there is no room for complacency. As the vaccination drive intensifies, Parliament should see a discussion on India’s record in handling the pandemic so far. And, of course, given that this is the Budget Session, there must be a comprehensive discussion on each element of India’s economic story, from the macro- economic indicators and revival in select sectors to the persistence of high unemployment and entrenchment of structural inequalities. All of this is possible only if both the Treasury and Opposition benches recognise that they differ, but the expression of these differences must happen on the floor of the House. The government must shed any unilateralism, and the Opposition must shed any plans of disruption.