MPs take Fridays casually, choose political engagements over legislation

Hindustan Times, August 19, 2017

Lawmakers across party lines and from both Houses of Parliament treat Fridays casually – an analysis of attendance data since 2009 shows – with many of them choosing political engagements in their constituencies to legislation in New Delhi.

On July 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi admonished MPs from his party at a BJP meeting for putting legislation at risk by not being present in the House at the time bills were taken up for discussion.

This year in the Rajya Sabha has seen the lowest attendance (62%) on Fridays since the UPA II came to power in 2009. The average for other days this year has been over 70% which is lower than the 2009-17 average of around 75%

Since 2009, attendance in the Lok Sabha has been under 66% on Fridays compared to an average of around 72% on other days of the week. Admitting a problem at hand, the government says going forward there will be more legislative business on Fridays to improve things. In the just concluded Monsoon session, it was able to get three important bills (the IIMs bill, the RTE amendment bill and the IIPE bill) passed on Fridays in the Lok Sabha where the NDA has a brute majority.

Experts say that the actual attendance figures for the second half of the day could be far lower because MPs are expected to sign in the attendance register just once a day and many do not sit through the entire day’s business.
Data from PRS legislative research – a think tank that closely watches Parliament — shows that business in the Rajya Sabha collapsed thrice this year due to lack of quorum on a Friday forcing adjournment for the day.

On July 21, proceedings had to be stopped because when the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) 2016 bill which had been passed by the Lok Sabha in March was being discussed for passage in the RS, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh pointed to the lack of quorum. There were only 22 MPs in the 250 member house. Though minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi rushed out to fetch members, he could only find one MP and the House was adjourned for the day.

A number of MPs HT spoke to admitted, on the condition of anonymity, that they leave for their constituencies by Friday afternoon to participate in political engagements.

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