Democracy at Work: Slogan Shouting, Walkouts and Boycotts

April 6, 2009 Outlook India: Each minute of a Parliament disruption cost the exchequer Rs 26,035.

 

Each minute of a Parliament disruption cost the exchequer Rs 26,035. As India prepares to elect a new Parliament, a latest study shows that our democracy at work meant increasing slogan shouting, walkouts, boycotts and adjournments. The 11th Lok Sabha lost 5.28 per cent of its time due to pandemonium while the same was 22 per cent in the 14th Lok Sabha.

The 'Citizen's Report on Governance and Development 2008-09', collated by National Social Watch Coalition -- a conglomerate of civil society groups -- also brings out that between 2000-2007, the average hours of working of Parliament was not even 50 per cent of the total time. Only 173 MPs in the 14th Lok Sabha actually spoke on legislative issues while the House passed nearly 40 per cent of the bills with less than one hour of debate. "There is not a single session of Parliament during 2008 and 2009 that has not lost valuable man-hours on account of unruly incidents. The year 2008 even witnessed the virtual abrogation of a whole session of Parliament," John Samuel, Convenor of the Coalition, said.

The report also found increasing absenteeism among MPs. On examining the attendance records of the 11th and 12th sessions of the 14th Lok Sabha, it was seen that more than 75 per cent of the MPs were below the median point of 16 or more days of attendance, according to the report. The report noted that in the 12th session of 14th Lok Sabha, the number of MPs whose attendance range from 0-5 days also increased. None of the 'celebrity' members have attended more than 20 per cent of the total number of days in each session, the study said adding, top filmstar-MPs like Govinda, Vinod Khanna and Dharmendra did not raise even a single question, nor did filmmaker Shyam Benegal, a nominated Rajya Sabha member. Interestingly, the performance of MPs from the corporate world were much better, with all eight members raising good number of questions and five of them attending more than 50 per cent of the sittings.

Only Vijay Mallya and Rajeev Dhoot attended 20 per cent of the sittings, the NGO said. Most of the bills were passed after a few minutes of discussions and at times disposed of together, the report said and pointed out that an important bill like the Special Economic Zone Act was passed after less than two hours of discussion. The House passed nearly 40 per cent of the bills with less than one hour of debate. The participation of younger members (in the age group of 25-40) in the debates was low, the report said.

 

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