Dr. Shama Mohamed, Congress spokesperson, says there is no ‘minimum government, maximum governance’
GN Bureau | March 5, 2021
The government’s recent notification to regulate digital media is an attempt to suppress all social media platforms including digital news platforms, Dr. Shama Mohamed, Congress Spokesperson, has said.
Only digital news platforms are able to say what they want to say, so the government is now attempting to suppress them, Mohamed told Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during a live webinar as part of the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
The government last week notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to regulate and censor social media intermediaries including online news media.
Mohamed said that rules have to be the same for everyone and something must be done to contain people like the BJP, national head, IT, Amit Malaviya who comes out with the maximum number of fake news. She also asked why BJP leader Kapil Mishra has still not been arrested for inciting Delhi riots and making inciting comments on JNU and AMU on live TV discussions. “A lot of fake news is coming from BJP and it shows the party approves of these things,” she said.
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Answering a question on dissent within the Congress, she said unlike the BJP where people are frightened sitting with their leader, there is internal democracy in her party. Without naming the prime minister she said he is the supreme leader right now and does what he wants; he does not care if food prices go up or down.
“We have to listen to people, understand farmers' issues …these farmers helped us during the Green Revolution. Many of the jawans are the sons of kisans. We have to understand people’s issues.” Mohamed said she does not see the promised ‘minimum government and maximum governance’. There is unemployment, price rise, and no support system for the poor. “Governance is when people have money, they are happy, have a house, roads. There is no governance and empathy is completely lacking.”
She said the farm bills were passed in parliament without debate and discussion and when they objected they were told to go to the supreme court. “Is the supreme court the government of the day? It is legislation. It is a bill passed by the government of the day and needs to be discussed and debated in parliament. Why should everything go to the supreme court? Anything we ask this government they say go file a case in the SC. When it came to the Rafale combat aircraft deal, we asked for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC), they said go to the SC.”
She said according to the United Nations, 1.45 million people were brought out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. The Congress-led UPA government had brought in Food Security Act and wrote off Rs 70,000 crore of farmer loans in 2009 and everyone had jobs.
“Whereas the current government gave tax cuts to corporates and wrote off NPAs but is not ready to write off farmers loans. The farmers are annadaatas (providers). You pass the bills without discussions. You go to the SC and file an affidavit stating that we have discussed the bills with various groups before promulgating the ordinance in June. Isn’t such a lie to the SC, contempt of court?” she asked.
Speaking on transparency, Mohammad said that when the Congress was in power and allegations were thrown, the party was ready for JPCs including in the case of Augusta Westland. “The Congress party was very transparent and whenever there was an allegation against a Congress minister the party would ask the minister to step down to enable a transparent probe.” She said the Congress party enacted the biggest weapon of transparency, the Lokpal.
Asked how she would rate the present government on a scale of 1-10, Mohamed replied: 2. During the pandemic, she said nations across the world have allocated 10%-20% of their GDP to Covid care whereas India gave only 1.5%, the Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar package. The poor did not receive direct transfer of money. The hospitality sector which contributes to 7% of GDP got nothing. The government provided credit to people but they are not able to get loans as banks need collaterals. MSMEs got nothing. She said when petrol and diesel prices have been deregulated, then why have the prices skyrocketed and people denied the benefit? “They earned Rs 20 lakh crore out of this. When the Congress party asked for a white paper and where they spend this money, they said infrastructure.”
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