The nation watches once again, as Anna Hazare holds a symbolic fast at Jantar Mantar today, to protest at the manner and form in which the Lokpal Bill has been tabled in the Winter Session. Team Anna has launched a no hold’s barred assault on politicians, political parties and parliamentarians for their duplicity in dealing with issues of Corruption.
The stridency of their tone is a matter of concern to some, and the hypocrisy of politicians posturing with him on stage, is sickening. Nevertheless, having watched the chaos in Parliament this Winter session, it is hard not to agree with those who believe, that both the Treasury benches and the Opposition, have conspired to paralyse Parliament, in an attempt to block debate on, and passage of the Jan Lok Pal bill.
One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist, to find something very odd, in the timing and manner, that the FDI in Retail decision, was sought to be pushed through, and later abandoned. Equally, the determination of the opposition to stall Parliamentary proceedings, rather than utilise this brief session to pass the many important bills that are pending, is a matter of grave concern.
Dr Mahatir Mohammed, ex Prime Minister of Malaysia, said on a visit to India last week, reflecting on our Parliamentary proceedings that we had “too much democracy”. Responding, in a debate hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai, on CNN IBN, I said, the truth was, that we actually had too little.
Democracy is a gift – witness the passion of the Arab Spring and the hunger with which its message is being adopted from Syria to Russia. Talking dismissively of Democracy undermines its value and the sacrifice made by those who won it for us.
Parliament is considered the temple of Democracy. The cavalier manner, in which our Parliamentarians have repeatedly treated Democratic procedure, within Parliament, leads one to believe that they simply fail to hear the voice of those who have elected them. Their job is to debate on and pass legislative bills – not to call a bandh in Parliament every time they wish to deliver a political message.
The current Winter session in Parliament has only 21 sittings. 31 Bills have been listed for Consideration and Passing.
In addition to the Lokpal Bill, these include a number of very important legislations, which demand urgent attention, considered debate and swift passage, such as :
- The Whistle Blowing act or The Public Interest Disclosure & Protection to Persons Making the Disclosures Bill : The bill was tabled in Aug 2010 – in the meanwhile 12 RTI activists have been murdered in the past year
- The Judicial Standards & Accountability Bill : Estimates are that it will take 320 years to clear the backlog of 31.28 million cases pending in the various courts of India
- Women’s Reservation Bills : The 108th and 110th amendments of the Constitution, reserving 1/3 of seats for women in the Lok Sabha & State Assemblies and 50% in Panchayats tabled in 2008 and 2009 respectively
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences : A Govt of India study in 2007 revealed that 53% of an estimated 420 million children under the age of 18 had undergone some form of sexual victimisation
In addition to the bills above, there are another 27 significant bills pending for consideration and passage.
There are also a further 23 bills listed for introduction, including significant bills that demand careful attention and discussion such as the Companies Bill, 2011; The Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill; The Enforcement of Security Interest & Recovery of Debt Laws; The North Eastern Areas Reorganisation Bill and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill, amongst others. Even a cursory glance at the names of these bills indicates how crucial they are for our nation. (Note: more details on all of the above can be found on the website http://www.prsindia.org.)
As a citizen of India, I want the Lokpal Bill passed. I would like to see it passed in this session of Parliament. I would like to watch a reasoned debate on the bill and its various provisions in Parliament. I would like to see which Parliamentarians support the bill and who opposes it and understand why. And in addition I would like to see our MP’s attend Parliament for every remaining hour in this session, and discuss and pass the remaining 30 bills that have been tabled for passage.
It is time that the voice of the Indian People is heard in Parliament. It is time that our MP’s and MLA’s do the job they were elected for and earn not just their salaries, but the trust we have reposed in them.