Context: The 17th Lok Sabha, which is entering its final year, has functioned for 230 sitting days so far. Of all the Lok Sabhas that completed the full five-year term, the 16th Lok Sabha had the lowest number of sitting days (331). With one more year remaining, and 58 average sitting days a year, the 17th Lok Sabha is unlikely to sit for more than 331 days. This could make it the shortest full-term Lok Sabha since 1952.
The declining productivity of the Indian Parliament has been a cause for concern in recent years. As the 17th Lok Sabha, the current term of India’s lower house of parliament, enters its final year with only 230 sitting days so far, it is likely to have one of the shortest full-term durations since 1952. This article discusses the importance of parliamentary productivity, how it can be measured, the factors contributing to its decline, and the way forward. The roles of Parliament in India, including lawmaking, scrutiny of government, budgetary control, oversight of the executive, electoral functions, and constitutional functions, are vital for maintaining the democratic system of the country.
However, indicators such as the number of bills passed, disruptions during Question Hour, and declining participation in private members’ bills suggest a decline in parliamentary productivity. Factors such as increasing polarization, lack of preparation and deliberation, weak committee system, and lack of diversity have contributed to this decline. The article emphasizes the need for addressing these issues to ensure effective governance and strengthen the democratic process in India. Various measures, such as promoting constructive debates, enhancing committee system, ensuring diversity, and promoting transparency, are suggested as a way forward to improve parliamentary productivity and uphold the democratic principles of the country.
So in this regard, we are going to discuss the following to do complete justice with the topics:
- Why is productivity of the parliament important?
- How do we know that the productivity is declining?
- What is causing such a decline?
- Way forward
Why is productivity of the parliament important?
The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in the country and is responsible for enacting laws and overseeing the functioning of the government. The roles of Parliament in India include:
- Law making: The primary function of Parliament is to make laws. Bills are introduced in either house of Parliament, debated and discussed, and finally passed as Acts of Parliament.
- Scrutiny of Government: Parliament has the power to hold the government accountable by asking questions, seeking clarifications, and conducting debates on government policies and actions.
- Budgetary Control: Parliament has the power to approve or reject the government’s budget proposals and to scrutinize government spending.
- Oversight of Executive: Parliament has the power to investigate and examine the functioning of the executive branch of the government and its various agencies.
- Electoral Functions: Parliament has the power to decide on the qualifications and disqualifications of members, conduct elections to fill vacancies, and determine the electoral boundaries.
- Constitutional Functions: Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, approve the proclamation of emergency, and to impeach the President, Vice-President, and other high officials.
Overall, the roles of Parliament in India are essential for maintaining the democratic system of the country and ensuring that the government is accountable to the people.
How do we know that the productivity is declining?
There are a few possible indicators that have been used to suggest that parliamentary productivity is declining in India. Here are a few examples:
- Number of bills passed: According to data from the PRS Legislative Research, the number of bills passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s parliament) has declined in recent years. In the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019), a total of 205 bills were passed, compared to 248 bills in the previous Lok Sabha (2009-2014). In the current 17th Lok Sabha (2019-present), only 17 bills have been passed so far.
- Question Hour: One important aspect of parliamentary productivity is the ability of MPs to ask questions of the government during Question Hour. However, Question Hour has been disrupted in recent years, with MPs often protesting and preventing the House from functioning. According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, the 16th Lok Sabha lost 29% of its scheduled time due to disruptions, while the current 17th Lok Sabha has lost 48% of its scheduled time so far.
- Private Members’ Bills: Private Members’ Bills are bills introduced by MPs who are not part of the government. They are often seen as a way for backbenchers to contribute to the legislative process. However, the number of Private Members’ Bills being introduced and passed in parliament has declined in recent years. According to data from PRS Legislative Research, only two Private Members’ Bills were passed in the 16th Lok Sabha, compared to 14 in the previous Lok Sabha.
It should be noted that these statistics are just a few possible indicators of parliamentary productivity, and there may be other factors at play as well. Additionally, it is important to consider the context in which these numbers are being presented, as well as any potential biases in the data sources used.
What is causing such a decline?
There are several reasons behind the declining parliamentary productivity in India.
- One of the primary factors is the increasing polarization and confrontational politics, leading to frequent disruptions in the House. MPs often engage in protests, sloganeering, and walkouts, which prevent the smooth functioning of parliament. This has resulted in the loss of valuable time and resources, hindering the legislative process.
- Another reason is the lack of adequate preparation and deliberation before introducing bills in parliament. The government often rushes to pass bills without thorough discussions, leading to inadequate scrutiny and oversight. This has resulted in poorly drafted legislation, causing delays, and controversies, ultimately reducing the productivity of parliament.
- Moreover, the absence of a robust committee system has also contributed to the declining productivity of parliament. Committees play a crucial role in scrutinizing bills, conducting in-depth research, and engaging in consultations with stakeholders, which help in drafting effective legislation. However, the committee system in India is weak, resulting in the bypassing of committees and inadequate scrutiny of bills.
- Furthermore, the Indian parliament lacks diversity, with a significant underrepresentation of marginalized groups, including women and religious minorities. This has resulted in the exclusion of diverse voices and perspectives, leading to the passing of legislation that does not reflect the needs and aspirations of all sections of society.
In conclusion, several factors contribute to the declining parliamentary productivity in India, including political polarization, lack of adequate preparation, weak committee system, and lack of diversity. Addressing these issues is crucial to ensure effective governance and strengthen the democratic process in India.
There are several ways to increase parliamentary productivity in India.
- There needs to be a greater focus on constructive and consensus-based politics, where members from different parties work together towards common goals. This would reduce disruptions in the House and allow parliament to function more efficiently.
- There needs to be better preparation and scrutiny of bills before they are introduced in parliament. This can be achieved by establishing a robust committee system that engages in in-depth research and consultations with stakeholders. Such a system would ensure that bills are well-drafted, scrutinized thoroughly, and adequately debated in parliament, leading to more effective legislation.
- The Indian parliament needs to focus on increasing diversity and representation, particularly of marginalized groups such as women, Dalits, and religious minorities. This would ensure that the voices of all sections of society are heard, and legislation reflects their needs and aspirations.
- Moreover, parliament should leverage technology to improve productivity, such as using electronic voting systems, enabling remote attendance for members, and enhancing digital communication channels. This would enable parliament to function more efficiently, reduce disruptions, and save valuable time and resources.
- Finally, there should be a focus on capacity-building and training for parliamentarians, particularly in areas such as legislative drafting, public speaking, and committee work. This would enable MPs to be more effective in their roles, contributing to better legislative outcomes and increased productivity.
In conclusion, increasing parliamentary productivity in India requires a multi-faceted approach, including constructive and consensus-based politics, better preparation and scrutiny of bills, greater diversity and representation, leveraging technology, and capacity-building for parliamentarians. By adopting these measures, India can strengthen its democratic institutions and ensure effective governance for all its citizens.