POLITICS

Five Charts That Show That India's Parliament Needs Urgent Fixing

The Winter Session was the second-worst in 17 years.

16/12/2016 6:15 PM IST | Updated 19/12/2016 11:08 AM IST
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With the government and opposition unable to come to a decision about discussing demonetisation in Parliament, the 2016 Winter Session was a near wash-out, ending up as one of the most unproductive sessions of Parliament in at least 17 years for which data is available from the independent thinktank PRS Legislative Research. The only session that was worse was the 2010 Winter Session when the BJP, then in the Opposition, refused to let the House function over the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Time for legislative debate was the casualty, as the Rajya Sabha spent most of its working time on non-legislative debate and the Lok Sabha on questions and "others"; in the RS, time for questions and financial discussions was completely eaten up by disruptions.

55 Bills were already pending before the start of the session. The government listed 19 Bills for consideration and passage at the start of the session, including the Maternity Benefits Bill that seeks to extend paid maternity leave and the Mental Health Bill (both passed by the Rajya Sabha in earlier sessions); none of these were passed. Of the two Bills that were passed, one was a Money Bill passed by the LS and so deemed to have been passed by the RS, while the other--the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill--was discussed for two hours and one hour by the LS and RS respectively. There are now 60 Bills pending with Parliament.

Both Houses also had their least productive Question Hour since the NDA government came to power in 2016. Question Hour is one of the key tools for an MP to get answers, especially about her constituency, from the government and a way to get updated data and assurances from the ruling dispensation.

The key reason that Parliament couldn't function was the Speaker refusing to allow an adjournment motion on demonetisation. "An Adjournment Motion is a voting motion raised in Parliament, through which MPs can request for the adjournment of business in a House to express displeasure over a government policy," PRS says. The 16th Lok Sabha has discussed one adjournment motion so far, related to travel documents given to Lalit Modi.

With state elections including in the battleground Uttar Pradesh next year, it looks like 2017 could sent a new low.

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