about us
  areas of expertise
  our projects
  ideas & resources


               Index of Articles         Index of Perspectives           Next Article



Will the Parliament Function

Omkar Goswami


With the Monsoon Session having begun, I write to you as a common citizen who is concerned about the way our Parliament has deteriorated over the years. In doing so, I speak for thousands — nay, hundreds of thousands — of us who are deeply troubled by the behaviour of many of our elected representatives in a sacred institution that is supposed to conduct debate and carry out legislative business in an ordered and civilised manner.


Having been ten-time member of Lok Sabha since 1971 and a winner of the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award, you must be saddened at the alarming descent not just of the level of debate, but by the poor attendance and conduct of people who storm the well of the House or boycott proceedings at the slightest pretext. One would have thought that the BJP would have been different, given that when they sat on the Treasury benches they railed against the behaviour of an ‘unprincipled’ opposition. But to no avail. It seems that the mantra of any major party in opposition is to waste the taxpayers’ money by preventing the conduct of legislative business at the flimsiest pretext.


Since leopards are not known to change their spots — especially many of our elected representatives who believe that they are law unto themselves — may I make a few suggestions so that the people of India get a more complete sense of their leaders’ conduct?

  • First, all right thinking people wholly endorse your suggestion that the Zero Hour in Parliament should be televised live. Moreover, the more unsavoury episodes that frequently occur during that time ought to be re-telecast in major national channels during prime time.

  • Second, when Parliament is in session, let us have the weekly data on the airfares spent on our representatives in both Houses. It would be instructive to know how many fly in from their constituencies to Delhi every week but don’t bother attending the House.

  • Third, can we have the daily attendance record of all Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members during any session of Parliament? We would dearly love to know how many sign the register for the daily allowance, and then disappear to conduct other business?

  • Fourth, can you instruct the Parliamentary staff to conduct three daily head counts in the Lok Sabha while each session is in progress — say an hour before and an hour after lunch, as well as some time in the evening? It will be revealing to match these headcounts with the attendance register.

  • Fifth, the dominant image of the Speaker is that of requesting Parliamentarians to behave. So, can we get data on how much time is lost by your cajoling the members to speak in turn, to keep quiet and to return to their seats? We can then estimate how much time is taken away from constructive business.

  • Sixth, can we also get an estimate of how much legislative work was actually conducted in each session of Parliament? For instance, we could compare the number of bills that were to be taken up with those that were actually introduced, piloted and passed or concluded.

  • Seventh, just as the speed of every cricket delivery is measured, so too can we have a “Storming the Well of the House Stopwatch” It will start as soon as a bunch of MPs storm the well and will stop only after all of them have returned to their seats.

You may face considerable opposition in trying to introduce any of this. After all, nobody likes being put under public glare, least of all the unruly. So, if these suggestions don’t gather sufficient support — as I suspect they shan’t — may I request that you ask your many friends in the press to get such data and make it a point to publicise them every day?


Frankly speaking, if any of us mere mortals behaved like some of our Parliamentarians, we would have been sacked forthwith. And with good reason. I realise that MPs can’t be sacked for mis-behaviour, absence and dereliction of duty. But, by publicising the data, at least we will know how many are sackable. That would be small step in the right direction.       

Published: Business world, August 2004


                Index of Articles         Index of Perspectives           Next Article