Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is normal that a session of a State Assembly begins on a day and the day ends.

But not always the day ends abruptly. The first day of the winter session of the Orissa Legislative Assembly ended abruptly on November 18. The scheduled list of business for the day got discarded.

As the day began, Leader of the House, Chief Minister Navin Patnaik was called upon by the Speaker for obituary mention in respect of persons in the list before him. The list, officially prepared comprised politicians and uniformed persons passed away since the last session. The Leader of Opposition and other leaders from the Opposition benches joined the CM in paying the obituary tributes. But the problem started with Opposition Leader harping on Demand of his party Chief Whip for obituary mention of farmers that have committed suicide in Orissa at par with persons in uniforms. The Speaker called off rest of the business and the day prematurely ended.

Sans slightest disrespect to the decision of the Speaker, the abrupt end of the day makes one look at the business of obituary in a legislative forum.

Members of the Assembly that legally include a Governor deserve obituary tributes from the House. Even a person for whom the country officially mourns should deserve it. But obituary mention in a legislative body for extra-constitutional persons like the uniformed people is something that does not go with the dignity of the rampart of democracy.

People in uniform are paid for their service from the State Exchequer like every public servant for discharge of his / her respective duty. And, duty included death in duty. So, obituary mention of uniformed persons in the Assembly over their death is not necessary. The persons who die in uniform should be given due posthumous honor in their respective organizations. But any such attempt in the Assembly would lead only to anarchy, a glimpse of which in the initial stage was available to see in abrupt closure of the starting day of the current session of OLA, yesterday when the Opposition demanded obituary mention for the dead farmers.

It is sad that the incumbent Orissa Government has failed to understand that death does not discriminate between uniform and plain clothe. Uniform or no uniform, death hits when one fails to defeat the challenger. So every death is not glorious.

On the other hand, when death hits, the loss is similar in case of uniformed and non-uniformed persons. The loss should not be hit by official discrimination.

Official tributes to persons whose lives end in process of making their respective contributions to the motherland are welcome. If, howsoever wrongfully, the Government makes the Assembly pay tributes to persons died beyond the ambit of its membership, in recognition of their contributions to the country, how could it discriminate between the persons whose contributions the country enjoys?

It should not make discrimination. But Orissa Government has made it by refusing to pay tributes to farmers in the Assembly at par with its tributes to persons in uniforms.

If the military or police personnel, (to expressional advantage, soldiers) died in course of making their contributions to the country, the farmers of Orissa too died in similar course.
The former died in fighting against human challengers and the latter in fighting against the exploitive system. Call them homicidal or suicidal, death is death and they died in action.

The Government is wrong in interpreting that farmers could not be equated with soldiers as the farmers work for their own income but soldiers work for defense of the country. Wrong. Soldiers work for their salaried income and stop the salary, there would be no soldier. And, their salary is assured by the State. Farmers work for their income which is never assured. Hence they are more disadvantaged. But this is not proper to read the matter this way. Both the farmers and soldiers work for their respective income; but by the works of both of them, country is saved from danger in the border, in law and order as well as in the food sector.

Therefore, when the country was challenged by Pakistan, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastrijee had coined the slogan, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan” (Glory both to the soldiers and the farmers of India). And, the country had won.

It is therefore right on part of the Opposition to have stressed on deletion of discrimination between Jawans and Kissans of Orissa in the matter of obituary reference in the Assembly. It is wrong on part of the government to have not agreed to this demand.

Thus saying, I would certainly say, obituary mentions in respect of anybody beyond the ambit of its membership and protocol should be banned permanently on grounds discussed supra.

Would the Speaker favor a ruling?

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