Shimla, April 8 – Scrapping emergency-era victims pension: Paradox of Political Obligation
The recent decision by the Sukhu government in Himachal Pradesh to discontinue the Loktantra Prahari Samman Yojana, a pension scheme for those who had spent months in jail during the emergency in 1975, has sparked controversy and drawn criticism from many quarters. While the government has cited concerns over the scheme’s alleged favouritism, many have pointed out that this decision undermines the sacrifice and struggle of those who fought to defend democracy during that period.
The emergency, imposed by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was a dark period in India’s history. While opinions may differ on the imposition of the emergency, it is widely acknowledged that during that period, democratic rights were curtailed, opposition leaders were jailed, and fundamental rights were suspended. Therefore, honouring those who had stood up for democracy during that time is a meaningful gesture. Many imprisoned during this period suffered greatly, and some even lost their lives. The Loktantra Prahari Samman Yojana was intended to recognize and compensate those who had endured this hardship. Its discontinuation has been seen by many as a betrayal of their sacrifice. One example is former CM Shanta Kumar, who has already written about it.
Moreover, the decision to discontinue the pension scheme comes when many are concerned about democracy and democratic institutions in India. The current Union government has been accused of suppressing dissent, targeting opposition leaders in the name of corruption, and weakening the independence of the judiciary and other democratic institutions. In this context, cancelling the pension scheme can be seen as a further erosion of democratic values.
Furthermore, the decision by the Sukhu government is likely to have political ramifications, not just in Himachal Pradesh but at the national level as well. The opposition, already united in its efforts to save democracy, is likely to seize upon this issue as another example of the government’s authoritarian tendencies. This could also weaken the Congress party in the state, as it sends a message that the government is in favour of emergency-like policies.
The move has given the opposition an opportunity to bring up memories and experiences of the emergency and rally against the Congress party. Furthermore, the decision may weaken the Congress party’s national standing, as it sends a message that the Himachal Pradesh government is in favour of the emergency.
While the decision to discontinue the Loktantra Prahari Samman Yojana may have been made with good intentions, it may have unintended consequences that weaken the Congress party’s position on democracy and democratic institutions. Political parties must be mindful of the message they send through their actions, especially regarding issues as sensitive as democracy and the emergency.
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