People and parliament

The three-week Winter Session of Parliament that started on Wednesday could perhaps be the last session under the same roof of the circular, 95-year-old, two-storied building built by the British Raj as the central legislative assembly complex. A new parliament building and complex under the Central Vista project is almost ready. It is likely the next Budget Session will be held there. The 13,500 crore project that started in 2019, also with residences for the PM and VP, is set for completion in 2026
The nation is at a turning point. This is time for the political class to think anew about the way the Parliament should conduct its business. Political interests must take the back seat and national interests gain precedence. Unfortunately, the reverse is the norm. Most days see the sittings disrupted by noisy “protests” with the result bills are passed and legislations made in a jiffy without the members putting their heads together or discussing matters threadbare. Each hour of parliament means an expenditure of 2.50 crore from the exchequer, or a huge sum of 20 crore a day, which is “drowned” mostly in the cacophony of protests, politically loaded arguments and counter-arguments. With television sets beaming the proceedings, this should not degenerate into a show-off. Such temptations may best be avoided. The Monsoon Session of Lok Sabha had a productivity of less than 50 per cent and Rajya Sabha around 40 per cent. The rest of the time was a washout. The Rajya Sabha met for 38 hours while 47 hours were drowned in disruptions. The Budget Session was about facts and figures, and it did good business. Former presidents and vice presidents have expressed serious concern over the tendency for disruptions but this has become part of this nation’s parliamentary/legislative culture. In fact, a scenario is gradually shaping up wherein anyone with clout can get away with their act in any field of public activity.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, a seasoned parliamentarian, has stated on the eve of the present session, “If laws are made in haste, then they attract judicial scrutiny. Therefore, we expect that all important bills are referred to joint/select committees, so that they are carefully examined. We are ready to extend full cooperation in parliamentary processes and debates.” The government is seen avoiding legislative scrutiny and taking undue advantage of the “disinterest” in the opposition benches for discussions. Bills are often passed without discussions. When laws are made this way, as Kharge noted, courts pick holes in them and even squash them. It is time both sides “work for the people.”

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