India: Rushing Through The Bills And A Clueless Opposition!

While the opposition political parties of India have been clueless about what to stand for and how to stand for, the ruling political party with its huge majority or a brute majority have been getting used to rushing through the bills in Parliament of which the prime example had been the Three Farm Laws in 2020 pandemic times (had to be repealed last month due to sustained opposition by the farmers) along with other examples, especially after the party’s second landslide in 2019. ‘Rushing through’ essentially means getting the bills passed in a hurry with mostly voice votes rendering ‘debate’ a mere formality. Yesterday, Monday the 20th of December 2021, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill-2021 was passed by the Lok Sabha without any debate despite strong opposition to the move. Today, the Bill has also been passed by the Rajya Sabha amid an opposition walkout, and with the Presidential assent being only a formality this move to link the Aadhaar Card to the Voter ID is set to become a law.


Why oppose this inevitable move as it traces back to 2013 and only thanks to the verdicts of the Supreme Court of India in the past few years responding to pleas against the moves, the linking could be accomplished only partially till now? The Election Commission of India (ECI), a supposedly independent constitutional authority, has been asking for this reform since long time in a bid to eliminate bogus voting and duplication of voter cards. The Government justifies this move by standing with the ECI and adding to it that the said linking is still ‘voluntary’; that it proposes to be ‘gender neutral’ changing ‘wife’ to ‘spouse’ that will allow both husbands and wives in service vote from the same location; that the voters can register for voter cards four times in a year now instead of just once so far; and that not providing the Aadhaar Card does not necessarily mean that the applications will be rejected.


The opposition political parties and some other stakeholders are saying that this is a ‘dangerous’ move leading to deletion of the names of many voters the likes of which had been seen after the ECI decided upon the linking in 2015, enrolling more than 300 million citizens already; that the Government is set to resort to ‘target’ the voters having the profiles of the citizens thus stored in the ECI data base in view of the forthcoming assembly elections in five states; that the fraudsters can have a very good time thanks to possible exploitation of the same data base; and most importantly that the country still not having a Privacy and Data Protection Law in place this might lead to breaches and leaks of personal data. The last point carries a lot of weight, and ideally, the Government should’ve first ‘rushed through’ the Privacy and Data Protection Bill, and then could’ve made the elections reforms bill fool-proof.


However, leaks and breaches in the personal data bases have been taking place all over the globe from various sources quite frequently in these digital days—the banks to the social media—and fraudsters have been in the act of resorting to various ‘creative’ measures to cheat people. While as per the Supreme Court orders that submission of Aadhaar Cards cannot be demanded by private entities, the banks, public or private, and the telecom companies have been making the card mandatory for accounts, credit cards, SIM cards, address proof or for change of address and so on. Besides, the linking of the Aadhaar Card to the PAN card has been made mandatory for Income Tax purpose. Of course, the Supreme Court has given some relaxations to some of the above and more for the purpose of digital payment gateways; but the distinction between ‘voluntary’ and ‘mandatory’ disclosures of Aadhaar Card details through the biometrics often gets blurred. We would say there is actually nothing wrong in going for the Card by all the citizens of the country and thus release the outlets for a range of benefits and conveniences.  


Politics has always been the mainstay in a democracy like India, and the ‘brute majority’ enjoyed by the ruling party has been the real concern for the largely disjointed opposition political alliances. Now, all the opposition parties are alarmed about the possible benefits through this ‘linking’ law for the ruling party in the forthcoming assembly elections rather than the justifiability of the ‘linking’. As far as we the citizens are concerned both the ruling party and the opposition must focus on the real issues of concern rather than indulging in petty and electoral politics.


In the midst of repeated disruptions in the winter session of the Parliament over issues, prominently on a union minister and his on being involved in the Lakhimpur-Kheri incident in Uttar Pradesh where at least four farmers were mowed down by the son’s vehicle, another bill, the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill has been presented in Lok Sabha today, aiming at making the marriageable age uniform for both men and women, again leading to opposition protests. The proposed bill wants to raise the marriageable age for girls from 18 to 21 which makes it uniform with the boys. Some of the opposition political parties are protesting against the move saying that at the age of 18 one becomes an adult, eligible to vote also, and therefore, the girls attaining the age of 18 should have the right to decide about their future in choosing to get married if preferred. Such was the ruckus in the lower house that finally the bill had to be referred to a Parliamentary Panel for scrutiny, and with just two days left for the winter session it may not be possible for the ruling party to ‘rush through’ again.


However, this move must be supported for the simple reason of uniformity between males and females. To add more reason to our support, the boys become graduates at about the age of 21 and many of the girls getting or forced into marriage are thus deprived of higher education. The argument by many social activists that the practices of child marriage and child labor still persist in our society does not hold much water. The opposition against the bill is more of a reflection of the mindset of a patriarchal society than having any solid ground to object to the proposed move by the Government. A step in the right direction can always help better our society in future, and most importantly, no government can ever change the values of a society whatever way it tries. The feudalistic patriarchal domineering mindset still prevails in this country and this includes many political leaders too across various parties, not excepting the ruling party at all. No wonder, the crimes against women continue unabated and the bill for ensuring reservation for women in Parliament has been pending for years. 


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