Yet one more parliament session is set to go the way of the
previous ones - more noise and fury, less work and legislation,
its primary business.
The first two days of the winter session last week have seen
parties forcing adjournments on various issues. Will there be
early normalcy and better use of taxpayers' money, people ask.
Voices are growing for greater accountability of elected
representatives, including suggestions of "no work, no pay". But
it naturally does not appear to have many takers among MPs.
The session started Nov 22 amid demands by the BJP and Left for
discussion and voting on the government decision to allow foreign
investment in multi-brand retail.
The political wrangling on the issue of FDI in retail remained
unresolved though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to
senior BJP leaders over dinner.
The previous monsoon session of parliament had seen successive
disruptions due to the BJP's demand for the prime minister's
resignation and cancellation of coal blocks.
According to PRS Legislative Research, a research initiative that
tracks working of parliament, only 17 percent of parliament's
productive time has been spent on bills in the 15th Lok Sabha.
"Frequent disruptions in the last few sessions have meant lesser
time for discussing and passing bills. In the monsoon session
earlier this year, only four of the 30 bills listed for passing
were able to get parliament's approval.
"While the monsoon session was disrupted for nearly 80 percent of
scheduled time, it has been seen that even when parliament
functions, the bulk of its time is spent on non-legislative
business," Devika Malik of PRS Legislative Research, told IANS.
A rough estimate says that each hour of parliament's functioning
costs Rs.25 lakh to the national exchequer.
Political analyst George Mathew said frequent disruptions send bad
messages to the people.
He said that the MPs had their rights but also responsibility
towards the people and that the protest by the opposition should
"How much energy, time and money is wasted due to disruptions.
They (the MPs) have a responsibility towards India's people,"
Mathew told IANS.
Mathew, who is chairman of the Institute of Social Sciences, said
he was not against the principle of no work, no pay for MPs as
crores of rupees of taxpayers' money is used in running
parliament. "Some checks and balances are needed," he said.
Subash Chandra Agrawal, an RTI activist, said frequent disruptions
were a huge wastage of taxpayers' money.
"The rules should be made strict for those who come near the
podium of the house," Agrawal said.
Former Lok Sabha secretary general Subash C. Kashyap said a reason
for disruptions was the "weak and unstable" nature of the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
"The government is staying in power because of outside support and
these parties keep asking for their pound of flesh. The government
is not in a position to risk frequent voting," Kashyap told IANS.
Kashyap said "no work, no pay" was not a practical solution to
frequent disruptions and fundamental changes have to be made.
"A majority of members in the present Lok Sabha have been elected
by minority of votes. The winning candidate should have at least
50 percent plus one vote."
The government has listed 25 bills for passing in the winter
BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman said the government had the
responsibility of running the house and its "adamancy" caused
Congress spokesperson Raashid Alvi said the stalemate in
parliament was caused by intransigence of the opposition.
Both Alvi and Sitharaman, however, agreed that disruptions sent a
"wrong" message to the people.
Alvi said the principle of "no work, no pay" cannot be applied
across the board as normally a few MPs disrupt the proceedings.
"It may be possible to cut salaries of MPs who go near the podium
of presiding officers to raise their issues," he said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Nilotpal Basu said the
issue of no work, no pay cannot be discussed without understanding
constraints of parliament functioning.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)