It is happening more than often when our parliament becomes a victim of such partisan politics that the entire session comes to a grinding halt and the word ‘adjournment’ is used more than ‘zero hour’ and ‘question hour’.
We recently witnessed the paralysis of the parliament during the FDI debate. Before that it was the debate on 2G scam. This list goes on and on. Public money has been wasted many times when the government and the opposition have had a confrontation. Last year's winter session was perhaps the most wasted parliamentary session ever. With the 2G scam coming to light, only six per cent of the work was reported in the entire session. A chill ran through the winter session in 2004 as well when the boycott of tainted ministers like Lalu Prasad Yadav meant that 33 per cent parliament's time was utilised for productive work. Again, the winter session in 1995 saw only 26 per cent of parliament's time was spent in productive work. Reason: Uproar over Sukhram's telecom scam. Sukhram was the telecom minister in the Narasimha Rao Cabinet and was recently arrested and put in jail. The 2001 budget session of parliament was marred by disruptions over the demand for setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the stock market scam. The MPs worked only 59 per cent of the time. The winter session same year and same issue, a JPC into the Ketan Parikh stock market scam was ordered but not before 40 per cent time had been wasted.
As per the government sources, the expenditure for each day of a session is calculated at Rs.7.8 crore. The expenditure for each minute of the day has been calculated to be Rs.26,000 per minute. This is the tangible loss in terms of money. We also have to think in terms of those bills which could not become a law because of the disruptive process. The new law could have helped the average Indian in some respect.
When the entire world is looking at India and talking about the largest functional democracy which has seen fifteen parliamentary elections since 1947, our parliament, sometimes, sends out a message that the process is more non-functional than functional. India is widely lauded as a model for emerging democracies around the world. An unlikely survivor as a democratic nation, it has managed to maintain and strengthen its democratic traditions over the past six decades. Parliament is a place to have intellectual debates to discuss the issues affecting the common people and come up with solutions to make their life better. A lot of our parliamentarians claim to be educated. I feel that they might have a degree but they are definitely not educated.
It is a shame to see some parliamentarians yelling and screaming in the house. They have to be told that parliament is a place to debate issues, not a place to exercise their lung power. I am not trying to paint all the parliamentarians with the same brush but there is no doubt that some of them are very irresponsible. Whatever the bone of contention is on any issue, civility should never be compromised. On an average, the British parliament is in session for almost 200 days in a year while the Indian parliament meets for only about 65 days. Indian parliament used to meet for about 140 days in the 50s but this number has dwindled down to only 65. There is a trust deficit on the part of the public for these parliamentarians.
There are some very intelligent members who never get a chance to speak. I have talked to some of them and they say that they have been a member for more than two years but were never asked by their party leadership to say a word. If their respective parties would not give them a chance, how the country would know of their potential and how the future leadership would develop? I was talking to a minister in the UPA government this morning and she said that the parliament library has an excellent collection of books but it is very uncommon for the members to sit there and read. They have to realize that reading is the most important path to personality development. If they don’t read and try to develop themselves intellectually, they would have a constipation of brain which is not good for our country.
I am not blaming any political party for the disruptions and strongly believe that the smooth functioning of the parliament is the collective responsibility of all the members. It is not only the Speaker’s job. Some members go to the well of the House and act in a manner which gives a message that the word sophistication is as alien to them as the word intelligence. It gives the impression that they might belong to a different kind of well. All the political parties have a responsibility of making sure that their MPs go through a very structured and comprehensive program to make them good parliamentarians. It is imperative for them to do this exercise and not doing it would be very detrimental for the country. It would be very good for the country if they realize that democracy and more so, functional democracy, is more than just winning elections. Women in Saudi Arabia do not learn driving because they are not allowed to drive but this is not true for our parliamentarians. They have to learn the process to be effective parliamentarians. The fundamental question of the effectiveness of our parliament should never be questioned. Let us hope that when it comes to the functioning of the parliament, our parliamentarians would be very bad golf players.