Watch | ‘Govt Seems Averse to All Decisions That Involve It Spending Money’: Shashi Tharoor

With the monsoon session set to kickstart on September 14 after a long gap due to the pandemic, Tharoor says the crucial area of debate would be India’s GDP performance.

After a long gap due to the pandemic, the monsoon session will begin on September 14 and continue till October 1.

Dr Shashi Tharoor, member of parliament and head of the parliamentary committee on Information Technology, spoke to The Wire‘s Mitali Mukherjee and said the crucial area of debate would be India’s GDP performance (Indian economic output shrank by 23.9% in the first quarter of FY21 – the worst quarterly GDP numbers ever recorded since India started compiling GDP data on a quarterly basis in 1996).

He also said this was an acceleration of an already deteriorating situation, both for the economy and for unemployment, where CMIE data indicates an estimated 21 million salaried employees had lost their jobs by the end of August.

He also expressed concern at the ongoing stand-off within the GST Council, but believed a clear resolution was difficult as the government seemed averse to any discussion on matters of revenue sharing with the states.

When asked if there was precedent to a complete curtailment and suspension of zero-hour and question hour for an entire session, Dr Tharoor said that even in times of war, the practice of a question hour and zero-hour was maintained as that is the only sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.

He also said the Congress would raise a point of discussion on the ongoing tension between India and China, where neither any all-party meeting had been convened to discuss the issue, nor was there clarity from the government on how serious the situation was. Tharoor said it was incumbent on external affairs minister S. Jaishankar to make an address in parliament and apprise the nation of the extent of escalation on the Indo-China border.

Reports have pointed to dissent within the parliamentary committee for IT (which Tharoor heads) and a call by BJP members for Tharoor to be removed from the post. In response, he said this was a complete departure from the norm, as the constitution of committees was always maintained for a year after elections. He also denied that there had been any changes or additions in the decided agenda , as allegations suggest.

On the Facebook controversy, Tharoor said investigations were ongoing and he hoped a change in the parliamentary committee did not cause delays in the process, as procedure was to carry on from the previous committee’s agenda. But he said it was essential to study what was happening with regards to the digital rights of citizens and the role social media platforms were playing.

Referring to the shrill level of reportage that news channels had taken on in the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation, Tharoor said TV News channels were playing the role of “weapons of mass distraction” and taking the focus away from urgent and serious issues like the sinking economy and national security concerns.