Now that the 15th Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament, has closed its winter session, the verdict by one research institute is in: This group of lawmakers is shaping up to be the least productive in the history of Parliament.
After the Lok Sabha adjourned on Wednesday, a report by PRS Legislative Research, an independent research house in New Delhi, showed that since 2009, when the lower house first convened, parliamentarians have sat in session only for 1,331 hours over 345 days and passed only 165 bills. By contrast, previous Lok Sabhas that completed their five-year tenure sat on average for 3,700 hours in 600 days and passed 317 bills.
The 15th Lok Sabha continues its term until June 2014, but unless it calls a short session before the national elections next year, analysts say that it is likely that the lower house of Parliament had its final meeting on Wednesday.
During the Lok Sabha sessions over the past four years, disruptions by disgruntled members of Parliament — who shout slogans and refuse to pass bills, leading to early adjournments — had become part of the daily routine when Parliament was in session. Some of the most common words heard in the Lok Sabha were: “Go back to your seats!”, “please sit down!” and “the House is adjourned!”
In the just-concluded winter session of Parliament, the lower house wasted 94 percent of its time and the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, lost 81 percent of its working time, according to PRS Legislative Research.
Opposition members routinely used parliamentary disruptions as a political tool, said Chakshu Rai, a parliamentary analyst at PRS Legislative Research.
“Since 2009, every session has some political flash or the other,” said Mr. Rai. “It may be a corruption scam or an audit report or any sensitive political issue, and the whole session will be sacrificed.”
When lawmakers were allowed to engage in thoughtful discourse was when Parliament worked best, he said. Mr. Rai pointed that although Indian parliamentarians do not get the same research support as their counterparts in the United States and Britain, they were still well informed about the issues.
“But most of the time, it lacked political consensus,” he said.
D. Raja, a Communist Party of India member of the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, defended the opposition’s tactics. “The present government from day one suffers from inherent contradictions,” he said. “You can’t blame the opposition for the fact that Parliament didn’t function. The opposition can’t ignore scandal after scandal.”
Satyavrat Chaturvedi, a Rajya Sabha lawmaker with the governing Congress Party, blamed the opposition parties for holding up bills even when there was no need to argue. “There are so many issues on which there are no differences, like bills related to health, education, to curb corruption,” he said. “They don’t allow the house to function.”
Mr. Chaturvedi led a committee to build a consensus on the anticorruption measure known as the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, which received the final approval by Parliament on Wednesday.
The Parliament left 126 bills pending in the winter session — 54 in the Rajya Sabha and 72 in the Lok Sabha. Out of 29 bills listed for consideration, only the anticorruption bill could be passed in both the houses.