Hindustan times, April 26, 2023
A mere 13% of parliamentarians have attended special briefing sessions organised by the Lok Sabha secretariat to help lawmakers understand various aspects of upcoming bills, according to data reviewed by Hindustan Times. A majority of those attended are first time MPs.
In 2022, and till the end of the Budget session of Parliament this year, the secretariat organised 19 briefing sessions by experts, and only 101 of 778 parliamentarians attended these. 70% of those who attended were from the BJP, 9% from the Congress, and 5% from the YSRCP.
Official data shows that of the 101 MPs, 72 are from the Lok Sabha and 29 from the Rajya Sabha. 65% of 72 Lok Sabha MPs and 93% of the Rajya Sabha’s participants are first time MPs. The 232 appearances from these lawmakers include 190 from representatives in the Lok Sabha.
The first briefing was held on November 18, 2019 on the Chit Fund Amendment Bill, 2019 and 87 MPs attended the briefing. “Since then, during every Parliament Session in the current 17th Lok Sabha, such briefings have been held regularly and a total of 79 Sessions as on April 2023 have taken place with the latest held on 23/03/2023 on The Finance Bill, 2023,” said an internal report of the Lok Sabha secretariat which has been reviewed by HT.
A senior official at the secretariat pointed out that 10 of the MPs who regularly attended these sessions became ministers in the July 2021 reshuffle of the Council of Ministers.
Dr Munjapara Mahendrabhai, now minister of state for Ayush and Women and Child Development ministry, attended 15 of these sessions. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, now minister of state for external affairs and education, attended 10 briefing sessions. And minister of state for health Bharati Pravin Pawan participated in nine.
But many MPs chose to give the sessions a miss.
An idea of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, the sessions are aimed at helping MPs get perspective about upcoming bills. Other measures including supply of soft copies of background notes, 24×7 dedicated hotlines and the digitisation of the Parliament Library’s rich resources have also been rolled out.
The data, reviewed by HT, refers to the period between 2022 and the Budget session of 2023. Birla started the briefing sessions towards the end of 2019 but attendance was limited in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid.
Even as the rate of participation has been low, those who participated showed keen interests in understanding the bills. “In many cases, the Sessions went beyond the allotted time of one hour and extended to 80 or 85 minutes,” the secretariat’s note said.
A second official maintained that there is a growing interest in the briefing sessions. “A total of 13 MPs have attended more than five sessions. In this Lok Sabha, a record number of first time MPs have been elected. Out of those 271 MPs, 47 MPs have attended these briefing sessions. Similarly, 27 first-time MPs from the Rajya Sabha have attended the Session.” In the beginning of the 17th Lok Sabha, the House often sat late (on two occasions Birla ran the House beyond 12 am) but in the past few sessions, disruptions have hampered functioning of the House.
In the last Budget session, the first part recorded 56.3% productivity in the Rajya Sabha but this slipped to just 6.4% in the second half. Lok Sabha clocked 83.8% productivity in the first part but just 5.23% in the second part.
The longest parliament session in a year managed to pass just one bill apart from the budget-related legislations.
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