Rule by Decree — preferred method of the ruling class to push its anti-people agenda
On 5th June 2020, the President of India promulgated the two ordinances passed by the Union Cabinet two days earlier – ‘The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020’ and ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’. The Union Cabinet had also approved an amendment to the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) on 3rd June.
The Ordinances drew immediate opposition from kisans in Punjab, Haryana and other states of the country. Kisans were opposed to the ordinances because they realised that the ordinances were against their interests and clearly in the interests of the big monopolies. They would pave the way fpr unbridled domination of agriculture trade by capitalist monopolies. Kisans came out in tens of thousands on the streets and on the rail tracks. They demanded that the government withdraw the ordinances.
Despite this massive opposition, the Union government introduced the Bills for legislation in the Parliament as soon as the Monsoon session began in September 2020. The Ordinances became law with the President’s assent on 20th September 2020.
The kisans of our country intensified their opposition and consolidated their ranks. Nearly 500 peasant organisations came together under one platform demanding the repeal of the three anti kisan laws. They demanded that the government pass a law and establish mechanisms to ensure that kisans are guaranteed Minimum Support Price for all agricultural produce. They marched to the borders of the capital on November 26, 2020.
One year after the promulgation of the Ordinances, kisans are still camped at the borders of Delhi, at Singhu, Tikri, Bahadurgarh, Ghazipur and Shahjahanpur. They have been through rain, bitterly cold winter days and the blazing hot summer of North India. Hundreds of lives have been lost, but they are committed to continuing the struggle till the laws are repealed by the government and they are guaranteed by law, a remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all agricultural produce. On its part, the government has refused to consider repeal of the farm laws. It has rejected the demand for a legally guaranteed MSP for all agricultural produce.
It is totally condemnable that the government used the Ordinance route for imposing laws that would affect lakhs of peasants and their livelihood. The ruling class was well aware these laws would face massive opposition from the peasants because they are an outright attack on their livelihood. The monopoly capitalists and their government took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns imposed on the people to push through these anti kisan ordinances. They thought that once the ordinances were passed, the kisans of our country would have no choice but to accept them, They have been proven wrong.
The Constitution provides for the passing of Ordinances by the government. Article 123 specifically provides the space for any government to promulgate an ordinance if neither House of Parliament is in session and “circumstances exist, which render it necessary for him to take immediate action”.
Ordinances enable the ruling class to push through their anti-people agenda using the extra-ordinary powers of the President. Ordinances have been passed by governments since the 1950s. In recent years, ordinances have been passed with respect to land acquisition, foreign investments in insurance and such critical matters on which maximum discussion should take place. The Electricity Regulatory Commissions Ordinance was promulgated in 1998, for rationalising electricity tariffs (meaning hiking tariffs) when the government found it difficult to pass the concerned Bill in the legislature. All these Ordinances have been in the interest of the richest capitalists.
This is what happened with the passing of the Farm Bills.
This shows that decision making power does not vest in the people, Decision making power is vested in a very small coterie, the cabinet of the ruling party, which does not even need to consult the elected legislators or the people who will be affected by the decision. This is how the will of the monopoly capitalist class is imposed on the whole of society in this parliamentary democracy.
Through periodic elections, the bourgeoisie puts in place a government that will ensure that its rapacious greed and global ambitions are fulfilled. Every time an ordinance is promulgated, the opposition cries foul and complains of overturning democracy. However, without exception, every party has used this Constitutional provision to promulgate ordinances in the interest of the ruling class.
As the struggle of workers, peasants, and road masses of people for their rights mounts, successive governments at the center are increasingly resorting to rule by decree. Parliamentary democracy is increasingly being exposed what it is — the brutal dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the masses of people.