December 16 marks the last day of the winter session of Parliament. This session has seen only protests, opposition, and the wastage of a whole lot of time and tax payer money. The session began on November 16. Minutes after the Lok Sabha session started at 11 a.m., it was adjourned. At around the same time, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned indefinitely.
Since that day, the situation has remained unchanged. Political commentators have compared this situation to a washout. Such a description is probably really kind, because our dear parliamentarians had a lot of unfinished homework to do. They had 10 bills to consider and pass, nine bills to introduce, consider, and pass, and two to withdraw. These bills dealt with issues ranging from GST to HIV and even the protection of whistle blowers. What they did instead was abandon their seats and create noise about demonitisation.
Let’s examine the sheer number of hours that were spent doing nothing. The parliamentarians left no stone unturned and made sure that either one or both houses were adjourned on every single day. As of December 8, the Lok Sabha spent five hours on questions, whereas the Rajya Sabha spent zero. 2016 was the year when non-legislative issues were discussed the most.
Does it come as a surprise that Parliamentary productivity was at an all time low? While the productivity of the Rajya Sabha was 20%, the Lok Sabha was stuck at a shameful 14%. Most hungover private sector employees manage to get more work done in a day.
As of 2012, it was estimated that every minute of the winter session costs the national exchequer Rs 2.5 lakh. Tax-paying citizens, such as you and I, contribute to the national exchequer. Every minute of the time wasted in the Parliament costs the country an average twenty-something’s annual salary. If you multiply that by 22 sittings of approximately 6 hours each, the figure amounts to Rs 198 crore.
That is Rs 198 crore that could have been used to pass 21 bills and discuss other burning issues. Is demonitisation an important topic? Sure. Is it the only one worth discussing? Most definitely not. It seems as though our parliamentarians don’t consider issues such as the prevention of corruption, surrogacy, and divorce as even worth a day’s discussion. Even if they did not result in the passing of a bill, having conversations about these issues would have been better than not doing anything at all.
The only good that has come out of this 30-day period is the passage of two bills. One of these, The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, was passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion. The other, The Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was passed by both houses.
There are politicians who have raised concerns about the Parliament not functioning. Rajya Sabha member Harivansh said, “I ask myself every day before I head to the Rajya Sabha about what I would do in the House. As an MP how do I repay the people for the privileges and facilities I enjoy if I am not able to raise their issues in the House?” L.K. Advani, upset by the disarray, contemplated quitting his job. President Pranab Mukherjee begged the parliamentarians to get back to their jobs. But the people who are most affected by this inaction are the 12.5 million people, who do their duty by paying tax.
The Lok Sabha website introduces itself thus: “Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of the adult suffrage.” As tax payers, all we want is that our parliamentarians, whom we have chosen and voted for, represent us and our problems. For doing nothing in the name of dissent is neither what we expect nor what we pay hard-earned money for.