ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Parliament Paralysed

With Parliament not allowed to work, it is time popular forces come to the fore.

Our Parliament at work may appear disappointing. But Parliament not allowed to work is disgraceful. However dull and ineffectual the debates on the floors of the two houses might have been in the past, they at least brought some semblance of democratic functioning to the institution. It lost even that pretence when from 9 November to 13 December last year both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha lay paralysed, as their presiding officers had to adjourn them from day to day for 23 sittings. This was due to the stand-off between an obstinate ruling coalition and an equally uncompromising opposition, over the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to go into the 2G scam. Barring the passing of a few bills (and that also without any debate), during the one and a half month long session, the Lok Sabha worked for seven hours, and the Rajya Sabha for two hours only. The fiscal loss to the public exchequer was a hefty Rs 172 crore.

The waste of the taxpayers’ money on a vulgar display of filibustering, through obstruction of proceedings by legislators, should alert our citizens to the need for a rigorous mechanism that can hold them accountable for their misdemeanour and penalise them accordingly. Striking workers, who are denied their wages for the period of their absence from work, have every reason to expect their representatives in Parliament to forgo their salaries during the period when they refuse to participate in parliamentary proceedings. Unlike the members of our Parliament, who even enjoy immunity from prosecution for accepting bribes, their counterparts in England (from where India derives its Parliamentary rules and practices) have to pay the price for impropriety, as obvious from the recent suspension of some prominent legislators, including the India-born business tycoon and member of the House of Lords, Swraj Paul. They were accused of submitting false travel expenses from their houses outside London (where they hardly stay) to come to attend parliament sessions, and further claiming overnight allowances for taking up residence in London during that period (even though they have been staying all the time at their permanent houses in the capital). To be fair to Swraj Paul, he returned the 38,000 pounds that he wrongly claimed. Will our Members of Parliament (MPs) follow his example and recompensate the public exchequer for the losses that their behaviour had cost?

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