GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Parliament and its functioning
Context: A Special Session of Parliament, scheduled from September 18 to 22, will begin with a discussion on Parliament’s 75-year journey, starting from the Constituent Assembly in 1946.
The article is in continuation of the previous article Significance and Legacy of Parliament in India’s Democracy published on 4th September in our Daily CA
Key events in the Indian Parliament’s History are:
|1946||Constituent Assembly first met on December 9th.|
|1950||Adoption of the Indian Constitution on January 26th.|
|1952||First general elections were held, marking the start of democracy|
|1956||Adoption of the States Reorganization Act, reshaping state boundaries.|
|1957||Second general elections.|
|1961||Liberation of Goa, Daman, and Diu.|
|1966||Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister.|
|1971||Passage of the 42nd Amendment Act, altering the Preamble.|
|1975-77||The Emergency period was marked by suspended democracy.|
|1984||Operation Blue Star in Golden Temple, Amritsar.|
|1986||Passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act|
|1991||Economic liberalization under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.|
|2005||Passage of the Right to Information Act, 2005.|
|2016||Implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).|
|2019||The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 passed. The act also repealed Article 370, which gave the region its “special status”|
|2020||COVID-19 pandemic disrupts Parliament sessions.|
|2023||Inauguration of the new Parliament building|
|2023||Special Session to commemorate Parliament’s 75-year journey.|
The Indian Parliament has become disconnected from society and turned into a gated community:
- Nepotism in Politics: The presence of dynastic politics in Indian democracy is perpetuated not only by national parties but also by regional parties.
- The increasing criminalisation of politics: In a petition filed in Feb 2023, it was claimed that there has been an increase of 44% in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009 (ADR report).
- Wealthy politicians but poor citizens: The percentage of persons with a net worth above INR 1 crore has only been increasing over the 2 decades.
- As per reports by the Association for Democratic Reforms, there are 315 members whose net worth exceeds INR 1 crore in a 543-member Lok Sabha.
- The lower number of women parliamentarians: The % of women in Lok Sabha is less than 15% and even lower in Rajya Sabha, which stands at around 13%.
- Not inclusive: The number of Muslim MPs in 2019 has only increased by 3. There has been no representation of the transgender community in the Indian Parliament so far.
- Lack of Transparency: E.g., very short time given to scrutinize many of the bills. Several bills have been passed as money bills to limit Rajya Sabha scrutiny
- Parliament and parliamentarians are generally not accessible for ordinary citizens to interact or express grievances.
Despite these lacunas, the Indian parliament has made a substantial effort to be an inclusive institution:
|Representation||The percentage of women’s representation in Lok Sabha has increased from 5% in 1951 to 14% in 2019. In the early decades, the Parliament was a stronghold of lawyers but in the past two decades, people from diverse educational backgrounds have entered the Parliament.|
|Public Debates||Citizens can watch live debates on important issues, such as budget discussions and legislative debates.|
|Parliamentary Committees||Committees like the Standing Committee on Finance analyze budgets and address economic concerns. E.g., the Parliamentary panel asked the former RBI governor to present himself before it, so as to answer questions regarding demonetization.|
|Laws for Social Welfare||Legislation like the Food Security Act 2023 and increasing reservation has helped provide representation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in educational and public services|
|Amendments to Address Needs||Amendments to labour laws to protect workers’ rights and accommodate changing employment dynamics.|
|Public Participation||e-Petitions allow citizens to raise concerns, and petitions are addressed in the Parliament. Many of the state assemblies have completely become paperless.|
The Indian Parliament is a symbol of the nation’s democratic ethos. And hence, efforts to strengthen representation, accessibility and inclusivity are essential for addressing the needs and aspirations of the diverse Indian population.
The role of individual MPs (Members of Parliament) has diminished over the years and as a result, healthy constructive debates on policy issues are not usually witnessed. How far can this be attributed to the anti-defection law, which was legislated but with a different intention? (UPSC 2013)
Prelims Links: (UPSC 2021)