Sunday, November 16, 2008

Targets for Parliamentarians

If MPs want, let'm be at the mercy of people working overtime

The state of a nation can be gauged by the way its parliament functions. It is needless to say that our parliaments have not only observed rampant abuse of democracy but also at an increasing pace. Not just in terms of their outrageous behaviour, our honourable Parliamentarians are finding it increasingly challenging to attend the sessions. This year, the number of Lok Sabha (LS) sittings has declined by 34 per cent and that of the Rajya Sabha (RS) by 20 per cent. For that matter even our state assemblies are following the footprints of centre. It has been reported that the number of sittings (till this point in time) in the Lok Sabha has been the lowest in the history of Indian Parliament. It is estimated that it could manage to touch a mark of 50 by December end, provided everything goes as per planned schedule. With that kind of participation, it can be well justified that the status of proposed legislations that were to be discussed in the Parliament is not exciting either. Before the start of session, there were 71 Bills pending, which by the end increased to 72. In spite of reducing the pending burden, the house actually increased the same!! It is now proposed that the Parliament should meet for 100 sittings every year, just to ensure that it is able to discuss the important Bills and pass important ordinances. Contrast this with the length of sessions that takes place in developed countries, which are not less than 140-150 days per year. It is most unfortunate that instead so spending meaningful hours in debating pertinent issues, our MPs on an average devote 20 minutes on an average to each Bill (25 per cent of LS sittings get adjourned due to disturbances).

Thus, it is just not that citizens bear a huge social cost but on top of that, the loss to the economy as a whole, due to cancellations or disturbances in Parliament, is unprecedented. A back of the envelope calculation shows that it cost the exchequer about Rs 26,000 for every minute of Parliament session, in addition to Rs 450 crore which the country spends on parliament every year. In fact, what else could one expect from a House where MPs are having criminal backgrounds, where most of them are incapable of comprehending any pertinent and meaningful discussion of a national significance. But then, this aspect of our democracy is nothing new. It has been debated endlessly; but as a nation we have somehow failed to evolve a workable solution to this. In fact we need to realise that there cannot be a democratic solution to this un-democratic functioning of our Parliament.

What I fail to understand is that when every institution, organisation and enterprise can function with specific goals and objectives, why can’t our Parliament do the same? Why can’t our Parliament within the given session work sort out the pending Bills? Why can’t our Parliament make the entire process of sorting the Bills, this way or that way, in a given session.

In such a scenario, if some Parliamentarians want to create nuisance, let them be at the mercy of everyone working overtime to either pass or shelve the bills / ordinances. With this happening, one might suddenly realise that no parliamentarian wishes to waste a single minute, for every minute they waste, they need to work overtime to see a Bill through. This would not just ensure quality time in Parliament, but also save the nation and its citizen from the huge costs and most importantly instill some sense of purpose to our own spoilt Parliamentarians!!


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