Parliament?s recent performance belies popular perception

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The Times of India, August 23, 2010

Amid the general hue and cry against the massive increment and still sulking leaders of some political parties, hard facts show that both the Houses of Parliament have not performed as badly as is generally perceived.

If we go through the analysis done by the PRS Legislative Research of the last three sessions of Parliament ? Budget session 2009, Winter session 2009, Budget session 2010 (see graphic) ? we find that MPs of both the Houses worked for more than 80% of the scheduled hours and on few occasions even more than 90%.

For instance, during this year’s budget session both the Houses sat late on several days to discuss the railway and general budgets. The Rajya Sabha also discussed the working of various ministries. Issues related to inflation, Naxalism and census were also discussed besides other legislation.

Lok Sabha worked for 66% of the scheduled hours, and Rajya Sabha for 74%. Several hours were lost due to interruptions on controversial issues like IPL, phone tapping, 2G spectrum allocation, Maoist menace and inflation.

What does it mean in real terms? Both the Houses had 32 of the 35 sittings planned. Apart from finance and appropriation bill, both the houses could pass only six of the 27 bills that were planned for the Budget session. If we add the appropriation bills, altogether 16 bills were passed. However, only 28 of the 64 bills could be introduced.

The winter session of 2009 saw the Lok Sabha working for 84% of the scheduled hours and the Rajya Sabha for 81%. In fact, the sitting of RS was extended by a day. Both Houses discussed the supplementary demands for grants, government’s position on climate change and rise in prices of essential commodities besides other legislation. Several hours were lost due to interruptions and walkouts on critical issues like sugarcane pricing, Telangana, Liberhan Report and inflation. However, out of 29 bills that were planned to be passed, including appropriation bills, only 17 could be passed. Also, only 22 of the 62 bills could be introduced.

In 2009 full-fledged budget session took place in July after UPA-II came to power. A new government and new MPs saw enthusiastic response from both the Houses. In fact, the Lok Sabha worked 4% and the Rajya Sabha worked 13% more than the scheduled time. In this 26-day session, eight bills were passed and 17 were introduced (including finance and appropriation bills). Both the Houses sat on all 26 days. As far as performance goes, only eight bills could be passed whereas the plan was for 14 bills.

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