For every hour when parliament is in session, the government spends nearly Rs.14 lakhs (Rs. 1.4 million) of tax payers’ money. And just imagine how much the state exchequer must have lost during the just concluded winter session when there was not a single 100 percent productive day with full attendance?
An analysis of the winter session of the 15th Indian parliament done by PRS Legislative Research, a unit of the Centre for Policy Research, shows that 48 percent of Lok Sabha MPs didn’t participate in any debate. The productive time in the lower house was 106 hours - only 76 percent of what had been scheduled, due to repeated disruptions.
“On six out of 21 days (of the session), the Lok Sabha met for less than two hours and of 26 bills planned for passage, only 14 were actually passed,” the analysis says.
Sample this: On Nov 26, when the Lok Sabha debated price rise only 26 of 545 MPs were present in the house. By the time Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar finished replying to the discussion on the soaring prices of essential commodities, five more members had left.
The lower house thus conducted an important business without even the mandatory quorum - at least 10 percent of its total strength.
The analysis of the findings by PRS Legislative Research points out that 25 percent of the MPs during the session “restricted themselves to one or two debates”.
“Only three percent participated in more than 10 debates.”
And there were many MPs, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who didn’t ask even a single question. Ditto for Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, Jaganmohan Reddy of the Congress and Shatrughan Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The attendance of MPs was also worrying. The average attendance of the MPs during the winter session was 66 percent.
Only 15 MPs had full attendance and only 45 MPs attended more than 95 percent. At least 25 MPs missed half the sittings.
Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta did not miss a single day of parliament, a distinction shared by the Congress’s Eknath Mahadeo Gaikwad, Janata Dal-United’s Rajiv Ranjan Singh and CPI-M’s M.B. Rajesh.
Of the 440 starred questions in the Lok Sabha, only 131 were called. For 44 called questions, the respective MPs were not even in the house - a situation that led to the collapse of Question Hour on Nov 30 when 17 members were missing.
Only 87 questions were orally answered in the Lok Sabha.
In the Rajya Sabha, the average attendance was 68 percent. The lowest attendance was on Nov 30.
In the upper house, of a total of 460 questions admitted only 18 percent could be orally answered.
The cost of running parliament, including entire staff and logistics, perhaps comes to Rs.14 lakhs per hour, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said in parliament during a discussion on increasing the sittings of parliament.