For the 11th consecutive day after the Parliament opened following the customary mid-budget session recess, the two Houses have not functioned in an orderly manner even for a single moment. Yes, the honourable members of all parties, regardless, have drawn their daily sitting allowance of Rs 2,000 for each wasted day. In other words, money is welcome from the public kitty, a jot of work is not. Of course, the blame has to be shared by every section of the House.
The onus to run the House may well lie with the Government, but that is vitally contingent on the Opposition members showing a modicum of good sense. If they come to Parliament with the sole intention of disruption, disruption is what they will have. For, unlike unruly children in a junior school, it is hard to discipline recalcitrant members bent on causing mayhem. The presiding officer does not even have the option to order the suspension of unruly members to make an example of them and thus expect others to behave themselves. Invariably, whenever a stray member is named for particularly egregious conduct, his colleagues rise in defence, protesting the chair’s decision and virtually ensure reprieve for him. In short, the presiding officers have very little power to call the House to order.
It is the leaders of various parties who are expected to ensure that the dignity and prestige of the parliamentary institution is respected and it is able to perform its designated role as a law-making body. That, unfortunately, no longer happens in our Parliament. Even serious legislative business is done in parliamentary select committees while the House virtually rubber-stamps the decisions of these committees. This in itself is not a bad thing. Members of the committees representing various parties on a proportionate basis are able to acquire domain expertise and thrash the legislative business in fine detail with the earmarked officials from the line ministries before giving their nod.
Yet, the two Houses must debate the Bills approved by the select committees, especially so to inform and educate the people at large. It is in this role that the Parliament has let down the country in recent years. The passage of the Finance Bill, 2018-19, without any debate by the Lok Sabha was clear proof that the Parliament is not performing its constitutional role. Approval of the annual budget without any discussion reveals the cavalier manner in which MPs take the foremost task of keeping a strict watch on the public purse. How the public money is to be spent, where it is to be spent and how much it should be spent under each head, including defence, education, health, etc, requires parliamentary approval but, of late, Parliament has become a mere rubber-stamp, giving assent to whatever the Government comes up with in the Budget.
But if things have come to this sorry pass, the MPs have no one but themselves to blame. And if they persist in their recalcitrant behaviour, the relevance of Parliament as a forum for discussing life and death issues impinging on the destiny of the nation will be completely lost. As it is, ordinary people have a very poor opinion of the MPs, who help themselves to hefty pay packets and perks without seeming to put in a day’s honest work. On Tuesday, instead of allowing the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to take up the no-confidence notice moved by the TDP and the YSR Congress members, members of other regional parties disrupted the House, thus, making it difficult for the no-trust motion to be admitted for discussion.
The proposed debate on the no-trust motion offers a golden opportunity to the members to break the current impasse, criticise the Government to their hearts’ content, and then hear the Government’s reply before accepting or rejecting the motion. Shouting slogans, moving into the well of the House with placards, defying the presiding officer renders Parliament into a joke. Small wonder, then, people are losing their faith in the netas and parliament alike. It is still not too late to salvage the situation. Let the Parliament return to normal, for god’s sake.