M A I N   N E W S

MPs vow to perform better
Houses resolve to uphold democratic ideals, PM voices concern over disruptions
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, May 13
At a time when MPs, by Lok Sabha’s own estimate, have taken away 447 hours in adjournments and forced disruptions over the last three years, the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of the august Houses on Sunday turned out to be a soul-searching exercise.

The daylong special sitting of the two Houses resolved to uphold the supremacy of the national legislature and fight forces that seek to undermine it. Adopted unanimously after a five-hour discussion on the ‘Journey of Parliament,’ the resolution voiced MPs’ commitment to strengthening democratic values, enhancing government’s accountability to people and rededicating themselves to nation-building.

The occasion was not just about ritualistic pledges. It was also about introspection over whether the dream of inclusive India had been realized and whether MPs’ conduct of late had helped the cause of Parliament as an institution.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in her opening remarks said that caste system and democracy could not coexist. “Democracy hinges on equality and caste on the principle of high and low. One of the two has to go," she said, before the discussions began.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged his colleagues to “firmly reject those who mock the institutions of democracy” and dared them to “share the blame for people’s growing frustration in Parliament on account of disruptions.”

The PM told the joint session at the Central Hall (where the Constituent Assembly had finalized the Constitution six decades ago): “Our Parliament is a unique representation of the values of our Republic — unity in diversity, secularism, pluralism and the rule of law. How we conduct ourselves is a way of showing respect to these values... Each one of us owes to those who sent us here to not only represent their views but do so with decorum... Many people feel frustrated by the disruption of Parliament. In our own way, each one of us shares the blame for this state of affairs…”

He demanded reflection over the daily routine of disruptions, adjournments and shouting in the House. “If we are to restore the prestige of Parliament, we need to resolve that the rules of procedure and conduct we have collectively evolved would be honoured in letter and spirit.”

Earlier, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi called for the integrity of Parliament “to be maintained at all costs.” She recalled how skeptics would ridicule the idea of democratic India and how India had proved them wrong. “Aam Aadmi is the heart and soul is our democracy,” she said.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said he, in the five decades of his political career, “had never left his chair to storm the well of the House.” RJD’s Lalu Yadav took a dig at him saying he wound continue to storm the well to ensure the poor were heard.

The PM warned of more public disenchantment if the leaders did not sit together to resolve issues leading to growing impasse in Parliament. The PM also ticked off the leaders over the poor level of debates in the House. “The number of serious discussions has declined in recent times. We have to revive the tradition of reasoned debate… That’s the only way to earn people’s respect.”

The debate in the two Houses saw 41 MPs speaking on a variety of subjects. Finance Minister Pranab Mukjerjee, who initiated the discussions, recalled how Parliament had through debate integrated 700 princely states into India. 
“I have seen the House tumultuous, tempers running high, but disruptions were the least resorted to. Resolution through debate is our greatest strength.”

BJP’s LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj hailed the maturity of Parliament. Advani described “tolerance for dissenting views as the biggest success of 60 years of democracy” while Swaraj reminded the House of how Parliament led the movement of social and economic integration “As many as 41 per cent of the MPs are now farmers,” she said, seeking a greater women’s representation.

The cycle of pleasantries was first broken by SP chief Mulayam Singh who reminded the House of the unfinished task of equality of all. The viewpoint was elaborated by JD-U’s Sharad Yadav who regretted that the “democracy had reached Parliament but not the common masses.”

BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan was the first speaker to demand electoral reforms to enable the poor to enter Parliament, a view supported by CPM’s Basudeb Acharia. CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta was the only MP to recall the sacrifices of Subash Chandra Bose and say that ritualism had no relevance to ruthless reality of India’s hunger and destitution.

How MPs paralysed houses

  • Constituted in May 2009, the 15th Lok Sabha has so far, during the nine sessions that it has had, lost 447 hours to adjournments and forced disruptions
  • During the same period, it sat only for 877 hours. This means it has wasted to disruptions more than half of the time it has actually sat to transact business of law making
  • The successive Lok Sabhas have been sitting lesser as years pass by. Picture this: the first LS from May 1952 to December 1956 had a record 677 sittings and spent 3,784 hours in business transactions having passed 299 laws





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