|Extended by a week till September 6 to pass pending bills, the monsoon session has seen more debates, discussions, replying starred questions than many recent parliament sessions
On August 30, prime minister Monmohan Singh did something he has rarely done in recent times. He put his point across uber-aggressively while ticking off the raucous opposition: “Have you heard of any country where MPs shout and walk to the well of the House and say ‘prime minister chor hai (the PM is a thief)’?”
While leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley came up with an immediate retort – “Have you heard of any parliamentary democracy where the prime minister buys vote in a trust vote?” – the PM’s unusual offensive showed what the monsoon session of parliament has been all about: business, though only towards the fag end of the session.
Extended by a week till September 6 to pass pending bills, the monsoon session has seen more debates, discussions, replies by ministers to starred questions than many recent parliament sessions. With as many as 24 bills introduced till September 2, more parliamentarians debated and discussed – the fall of rupee and widening current account deficit, among others – than they have done of late. And unlike the 2012 monsoon session, which was a complete washout with parliament working on only six days, the productive hours have seen a marked improvement in this session, which started on August 5.
The caveat: such productive hours in Lok Sabha increased only towards the end of August. Till August 22, statistics say, Lok Sabha spent only 12 percent of its time in productive business, as against 80 percent in the Rajya Sabha. “The (productive) time spent in Lok Sabha was just 38 minutes while in Rajya Sabha, the time spent (on legislation) was close to eleven hours,” says a report prepared by PRS Legislative, a Delhi-based think-tank that tracks working of parliament.
According to PRS Legislative, Lok Sabha MPs began clocking substantially more productive hours since August 23, the day Speaker Meira Kumar suspended 12 Andhra Pradesh MPs for five consecutive sittings for creation of a separate state of Telangana. For data available till September 2, the report says, Lok Sabha has “worked for 25 hours while Rajya Sabha contributed to close to 24 hours”. This, the report explains, is the “time spent on legislation”.
The upper house was more productive, says the PRS Legislative report: “The productive hour of the Rajya Sabha is 74 percent while only 42 percent of time spent in Lok Sabha has been productive.” That, however, still means 58 percent and 26 percent time was lost in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively.
According to the study, Question Hour got 13 percent of Lok Sabha’s time and 31 percent time in the upper house. Only 4 percent and 10 percent of the questions were verbally answered in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively.
Three key legislative bills were passed by the two houses: Companies Bill, 2011, National Highways Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2012 and National Food Security Bill, 2013. The session also passed a new Companies Bill, replacing a 1956 law that regulates the corporate sector.
According to the PRS Legislative, 24 legislative bills were introduced in this session, with seven of them passed in the upper house and five in the lower house. Five legislative bills were withdrawn in the session.
In contrast, the winter session of 2012, which ended on December 20, saw only eight legislative bills being introduced, with six of them passed during the session. The Lok Sabha worked for 53 percent of its scheduled hours and Rajya Sabha for 58 percent.
The 32-day budget session this year was adjourned sine die two days ahead of schedule. With 93 hours of time lost due to disruptions, the budget session was the second most disruptive session of the present Lok Sabha.
Only 38 of the 600 ‘starred questions’ (these are admitted to be answered orally in the house) were addressed by the ministers.
Sixteen legislative bills were introduced and two were passed during the session besides the financial bills.