Disruptions, Delays and the Democratic Process
Democracies are measured by the number of voters; and India, discounting the People’s Republic of China, has been considered as the world’s largest democracy since its independence. As India is also home to the world’s largest number of impoverished people and the startling amount of people who abstains from voting, and add to that the fact that India has a widespread reputation for corruption, endemic poverty, pollution in urban areas, child labour, and violence against women, the point of India being world’s largest democracy is rather debatable.
But what is certainly most disturbing is the functioning of the parliament of the so called ‘World’s Largest Democracy’. The core thing about Parliament is its members represent the citizens of India. The Members of Parliament (MPs) have been authorised, on behalf of the citizens, to discuss and debate bills amongst others, that the government or any private member introduces, examine it carefully, and reach at the best option available to enact the best laws for the citizens and the country.
An even more important role of Parliament is to hold the government of the day, whichever party is in power, accountable for its actions, policies, etc. by asking the government questions, seeking answers and putting everything in public domain. The whole idea of this process is that the representatives of the people are debating and arguing to find ways to enact best laws. And the Parliament is a forum for these processes, and they provide legitimacy in the minds of people about democracy and the trust on which it works.
There could be contending interests, conflicting objectives, but the role of MPs is to debate these issues and reach at the best possible ways to make laws and not; but what the people have witnessed so far is a direct contrast to the proceedings. Instead, parliamentary sessions have become a forum for rabble rousing with both the government and opposition engaging in acrimonious exchanges in its run up over a host of issues.
It is not a one-time incident, as parliament was unable to function for more than a fortnight with the government and the opposition at loggerheads over several issues such as parties from Andhra seeking special category status and Congress being against the apex court verdict on the SC/ST Act, during the parliamentary sessions of March 2018.
Disruptions in both Houses of Parliament are becoming more common than ever before as can be witnessed from the Day 6 of the Parliament’s winter session that started on December 11 being disrupted due to the on-going dogfight between Congress and BJP over the Rafale deal and the 1983 anti-Sikh riots case.
But what is worse, is like a contagious disease, parliamentary washouts and disruptions have even inspired Assembly sessions of the State with the Congress staging a walkout in protest against the holding of the fifth session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly for just two days while the Monsoon Session was also adjourned as civil outfits protesting against the Manipur Liquor Bill, 2018, and students attempted to disrupt the proceedings of the House. But what the protestors ought to remember that out of various pillars of the State; only the legislature is elected directly by the people.
Although the walkouts and disruptions might have genuine reasons, they serve no purpose and more, they are a waste of taxpayer’s money as over Rs 2.5 lakh is spent per minute to run Parliament. The amount might be miniscule, but the cost of delay in policy-making is huge and that affects the entire nation or state.
On the other hand, the causes of disruptions seems to arise from the fact that members of the opposition are not allowed from raising certain issues, however urgent the topic may be; and the opposition parties seems to be hell-bent in creating a ruckus as a reminder to the ruling party of a similar logjam created when the latter was in the opposition, while the parliament or assembly forum are also used as platforms for drawing attention on matters of public importance.
The problems can be somehow mitigated if the opposition is guaranteed some time like in the instance of the British Parliament which allocates 20 days a year when the agenda is decided by the opposition; the Parliament meetings should be more frequent as in the 1950s when they were held annually for 120-140 days annually but at present it ranges between 60 and 70 days. Last but not the least, the parliamentary schedule is decided by the government, which can postpone or curtail a session if faced with uncomfortable issues.
Leader Writer: Danny Haobam
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