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Legislative performance of State Assemblies

May 27th, 2014 No comments

As the dust settles around the 16th Lok Sabha, attention must now shift to the state assemblies, some of which have been newly constituted like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and the few that will go into elections in the next few months like Maharashtra and Haryana. There are 30 state legislative assemblies not including the newly formed state of Seemandhara. In our federal structure, laws framed by the state assemblies are no less important and deserve the same diligence and debate as laws made by Parliament.

A brief look in to the performance of some of our state assemblies reveals that these institutions which form the cornerstones of our democracy need some serious attention.

State Assemblies: business hours

The current Haryana Legislative Assembly that comes to the end of its five year term in October this year has held 10 sessions since 2009 till March 2014, meeting for a total of 54 days – an average of 11 days per year.

In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 69 days each year from 2009 to 2014. Among state assemblies, only Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh sat for fewer days than Haryana. In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days per year, while Tamil Nadu Assembly sat for 44 days.

In its previous term, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year. Similarly, the current Goa Legislative Assembly sat for 24 days in 2012 and for 39 days in 2013. Over the last 10 years, the Assembly sat for an average of 26 days a year.  It recorded the highest number of sitting days in the last 10 years, at 39 days.

Law making in the states

In most states, Bills are passed with little or no discussion. Most Bills are introduced and passed on the last day of each session, which gives Members hardly any opportunity to examine or discuss legislation in detail. Unlike Parliament, where most Bills are referred to a department related standing committee which studies the Bill in greater detail, in most states such committees are non-existent.  The exceptions are Kerala which has constituted subject committees for this purpose and states like Goa and Himachal Pradesh where Select Committees are constituted for important Bills.

The current Haryana Assembly has passed 129 Bills, all of which were passed on the same day as they were introduced. Upto 23 Bills were passed on a single day, which left hardly any time for substantial discussion.

In the twelfth Gujarat Assembly, over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced. In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days.

Of the 40 Bills passed by the Goa Assembly till May 2013, three Bills were referred to Select Committees. Excluding Appropriation Bills, the Assembly passed 32 Bills, which were taken up together for discussion and passing in five days. Almost all Bills were passed within three days of introduction. On average, each Bill was discussed for four minutes.

In 2012, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a total of 39 Bills, including Appropriation Bills.  Most Bills were passed on the same day they were introduced in the Assembly.  In 2011, a total of 23 Bills were passed. On average, five Members participated in the discussions on each Bill. In 2012, the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed 11 Bills. Only one of the 11 Bills was discussed for more than 10 minutes. The performance of the Chhattisgarh and Bihar Vidhan Sabhas follow the same pattern.

Over the last few years, some assemblies such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have taken some positive steps which include setting up subject committees and permitting live telecast of Assembly proceedings.

Every legislator- in Parliament and the states – is accountable to his voter. Weak democratic institutions deprive legislators of their right to oversee the government as enshrined in the Constitution. Inadequate number of sitting days, lack of discussion on Bills, and passing of the Budget and demands for grants without discussion are symptoms of institutional ennui and do not do justice to the enormous import of these legislative bodies.

Serious thought and public debate is needed to reinvigorate these ‘temples of democracy’ and provide elected representatives with the opportunity to exercise their right to legislative scrutiny, hold government to account, and represent their constituents.

16वीं लोकसभा- मौके हैं तो मुश्किलें भी

May 20th, 2014 No comments

हम सबने यह देखा है कि भारतीय संसदीय इतिहास में 15वीं लोकसभा का कार्यकाल सबसे निराशाजनक में से एक रहा। कमोबेश निर्धारित समय का 40 फीसद बाधित रहा। पूर्ण लोकसभा के कार्यकाल में सबसे कम बिल पारित हुए। इससे न केवल सरकार के विधायी कार्य गंभीर रूप से बाधित हुए बल्कि अपने निर्वाचिकों का प्रतिनिधित्व करते हुए हमारे सांसद सरकार को जवाबदेह बनाने के मौके से भी वंचित रहे। अक्सर बाधित रहने, पेपर स्प्रे कांड, कार्यवाही का वाकआउट और लोकसभा अध्यक्ष द्वारा बार-बार व्यवस्था बनाए रखने की मनुहार करते रहने वाकयों के लिए 15वीं लोकसभा याद की जाती रही। अब जब 15वीं लोकसभा अपने कार्यकाल की समाप्ति की ओर पहुंच चुकी है, तो ऐसा लगता है कि यह महत्वपूर्ण संस्था अपनी साख और विश्वसनीयता खोती दिख रही है। ऐसे में 16वीं लोकसभा से इसकी साख और विश्वसनीयता बरकरार रखने की लोगों की अपेक्षाएं और आकांक्षाएं ज्यादा बढ़ जाती हैं।

विधायी एजेंडा

राज्यसभा में मौजूदा समय में 60 बिल लंबित हैं। इनमें राइट्स ऑफ पर्सन्स विद डिसएबिलिटीज बिल भी शामिल है। लोगों को विशिष्ट पहचान संख्या जारी करने के लिए स्थापित किए जाने वाले राष्ट्रीय पहचान प्राधिकरण संबंधी नेशनल आइडेंटीफिकेशन अथॉरिटी ऑफ इंडिया बिल और भ्रष्टाचार को रोकने के लिए भ्रष्टाचार निरोधक (संशोधन) बिल भी लंबित हैं। इनमें से कई बिलों के अपने खास महत्व हैं और ये बड़ी संख्या में लोगों को प्रभावित करते हैं। नई गठित लोकसभा को इन बिलों को पारित करने को अपनी प्राथमिकता में लेना होगा।

इसके अतिरिक्त भ्रष्टाचार को रोकने संबंधी बिलों का एक पूरा समूह है जिसे पूर्व की लोकसभा में सिरे नहीं चढ़ाया जा सका। भ्रष्टाचार से निपटने के लिए संसद में पेश किए गए इन नौ बिलों में से केवल तीन ही दोनों सदनों से पारित किए जा सके हैं। बचे हुए छह बिल सिटिजन चार्टर, इलेक्ट्रॉनिक सर्विस डिलीवरी, बेनामी ट्रांजैक्शन, सरकारी खरीदफरोख्त, ज्युडिशियल स्टैंडर्ड और प्रीवेंशन ऑफ ब्राइबेरी ऑफ फॉरेन ऑफिशियल लैप्स हो चुके हैं। वित्तीय और आर्थिक क्षेत्रों से जुड़े कुछ अहम बिल जैसे जीएसटी बिल, डायरेक्ट कोड बिल, माइक्रोफाइनेंस बिल और माइंस व मिनरल्स बिल पिछली लोकसभा से नहीं पारित कराए जा सके।

संसद को मजबूती

हमारे प्रतिनिधि लोकतंत्र में चुने गए प्रतिनिधि अपने मतदाताओं के प्रति जवाबदेह होते हैं। अपने वर्तमान स्वरूप में एंटी डिफेक्शन लॉ हमारे लोकतंत्र की स्वत: स्फूर्त प्रक्रिया चेक एंड बैलेंस को कमजोर करता है। इस बिल का मकसद सरकार की अस्थिरता को कम करना था, लेकिन यह सांसदों के उनके निर्वाचकों के हितों की आवाज उठाने की स्वतंत्रता को सीमित करता दिखता है। 15वीं लोकसभा में करीब एक चौथाई बिल 30 मिनट के भीतर ही पारित हो गए जिसका आशय यह है कि व्यावहारिक रूप से इनको लेकर कोई बहस नहीं हुई। 25 फीसद से कम बिलों पर तीन घंटे से अधिक की बहस हुई। यह संकेत देता है कि महत्वपूर्ण मसलों से संबंधी बिल अक्सर अपर्याप्त बहस और समझ के ही पारित हो रहे हैं। नई लोकसभा को अपने सांसदों को उचित मौके और पर्याप्त समय देना चाहिए जिससे वे किसी बिल को लेकर अपनी राय जाहिर कर सकें और बिल को पारित करने से पहले उसके विभिन्न प्रावधानों के निहितार्थ सामने आ सकें। अधिकांश बिल ध्वनिमत से पारित हो जाते हैं। इसमें किसी को यह पता नहीं चलता कि इस पर प्रत्येक सांसद ने कैसे और किस तरह वोट किया। किसी बिल पर सांसदों द्वारा किए गए वोट को सार्वजनिक किया जाना चाहिए। इससे सांसदों और संसद की कार्यशैली में बहुत बड़ी पारदर्शिता और जवाबदेही लायी जा सकती है। कुछ अन्य सीमाएं भी अस्तित्व में हैं जो संसद को ज्यादा प्रभावी होने के आड़े आती हैं। इनमें सांसदों को उनके संसदीय उत्तरदायित्व निभाने के लिए रिसर्च की अपर्याप्त मदद, एक कमजोर कमेटी प्रणाली जिसकी कार्यप्रणाली पारदर्शी नहीं है, विधायी जांच और फीडबैक से पहले की प्रक्रिया की कमी, सदन में मामलों को उठाने के लिए सांसदों के पास पर्याप्त समय की अनुपलब्धता आदि शामिल हैं। इन बाधाओं को दूर करके नई गठित लोकसभा के सदस्य अपना उत्तरदायित्व प्रभावी तरीके से संपन्न कर पाएंगे।

संसद उन कुछ चुनिंदा संस्थाओं में है जिसे हमारे पूर्वजों ने इस भरोसे के साथ हमें सौंपा है जिस पर हम तर्कसंगत तरीके से गर्व कर सकें। 16वीं लोकसभा के हमारे प्रतिनिधियों के पास अब उस दायित्व को पूरा करने के लिए वह मौका और चुनौती है जिसकी मदद से हम सब अधिक विचारात्मक और सृजनात्मक लोकतंत्र की ओर आगे बढ़ सकें।

- This article was published in Dainik Jagran on May 18, 2014.

Brief overview of the performance of the 12th Haryana Legislative Assembly

May 7th, 2014 No comments

The term of the 12th Haryana Legislative Assembly ends in October this year.  We look at the work done by the 12th Haryana Assembly during its term from 2009 to 2014 to assess its performance on metrics such as the number of sittings, members’ attendance, and legislative business.

Performance of the Assembly

Since the beginning of its tenure, which commenced in October 2009, the Assembly has held ten sessions. Till March 2014, the Assembly had met for a total of 54 days – an average of 11 days per year.  In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 69 days each year from 2009 to 2014.  Among state assemblies, only Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh sat for fewer days than Haryana. In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days per year , while Tamil Nadu Assembly sat for 44 days.

sitting days haryana

The average attendance among Haryana MLAs stood at 89% for the whole term, with six members registering 100% attendance.

 

 Attendance haryana

 

From the beginning of its term in 2009 till March 2014, the Assembly passed 129 Bills.  All Bills were discussed and passed on the same day as they were introduced. None of the Bills were referred to any Committee.

Participation in the general discussion on the Budget has recovered since 2012, when the Budget was discussed for around three hours with eight Members participating.. In 2013, discussion took place for eight hours and forty minutes with 31 members participating. In 2014, the Assembly discussed the Budget for four hours and fifty minutes with 21 Members participating.

 Budget discussion

Key laws passed by the 12th Assembly include the Haryana State Commission for Women Bill, the Haryana Prohibition of Ragging in Educational Institution Bill and the Punjab Agricultural Produces Markets (Haryana Amendment) Bill.

Karnataka: Election trends and Assembly performance

April 26th, 2013 No comments

Elections to the 14th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka are scheduled to be held on May 5, 2013. Of the 224 assembly constituencies that will go into polls, 36 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 15 for Scheduled Tribes. Voting will take place in 50,446 polling stations across Karnataka 1. In this blog, we analyse electoral trends between 1989 and 2008 and the performance of the current Karnataka Assembly.

Figure 1: Electoral trends since 1989, source: Election Commission of India, PRS.

In the last elections, held in 2008, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government, winning 110 of the 226 seats in the Assembly. The BJP has steadily increased its seat share since 1989: it won four seats in 1989, 44 in 1999 and 79 in 2004. The Indian National Congress (INC) had a 179 seat majority in 1989 (79% of the assembly) which fell to 34 seats in 1994. The INC subsequently increased their tally from 65 seats in 2004 to 80 seats in 2008. However, the INC continued to have the highest share of votes polled (except in 1994) even as its share of seats decreased.

The 1990s also saw the emergence of the Janata Dal (S) who won the 1994 elections with 115 seats. Janata Dal’s emergence is part of a broader theme of increased participation by regional parties in Karnataka. In 1989, 20 parties contested the elections, seven of which were national parties but in 2008, 30 parties contested, of which only five were national parties.

Performance of the current Assembly

As we approach the end of the term of the current Assembly, a brief look at its work from 2008 to 2013:

  • During its five-year-term, the Assembly sat for a total of 144 days, an average of 31 days each year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha in its current term sat for an average of 68 days per year. Among states, the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days, Haryana for 13 days and Rajasthan for 24 days, each year.

    Figure 2: Days of sitting – Karnataka assembly, source: RTI, PRS.

  •  Members of the Karnataka Assembly recorded an average attendance of 81 per cent for the whole term, broadly in line with the Lok Sabha attendance of 77 per cent. Nearly one in five members registered more than 90 per cent attendance. In comparison, members of the 11th Himachal Pradesh Assembly recorded an attendance of 95 per cent, while the attendance of the 12th Gujarat Assembly stood at 83 per cent.
  • Some of the significant Bills passed by the 14th Karnataka Assembly include the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Bill and the Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Bill.  In 2012, the Assembly also passed the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation Bill.

Brief overview of the performance of the 12th Gujarat Legislative Assembly

December 13th, 2012 No comments

Elections to the 13th Legislative Assembly of Gujarat are scheduled to be held in two phases on the 13th and 17th of December.  The BJP has been the dominant majority party in the Assembly since 1995.  The 2002 elections saw the largest victory for the party, winning 127 seats.

The Congress last held power in Gujarat in 1985.  In the Assembly elections held for the the seventh Assembly, the Congress had a clear majority of 149 seats.  In 1990, the Janata Dal emerged as the largest party with 70 seats.  The BJP registered major gains in 1990, improving their tally of 11 seats in 1985 to 67 seats.  The Congress came third with 33 seats. The electoral trends over the last 22 years may be viewed here.

In the current Assembly, 117 of the 182 seats are held by the BJP.  It is useful to look at the work done by the 12th Gujarat Assembly during its term from 2008 to 2012.  Here we look at key metrics like the number of days the assembly was in session, members’ attendance, and legislative business.

Performance of the Assembly

During its five year term, the assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year.  In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 66 days each year during the period 2008 to 2011.  In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days – highest among states – followed by Maharashtra (44).  However, the Gujarat Assembly sat for more number of days than the Haryana Assembly which sat for an average of 13 days and Rajasthan (24).

The average attendance among Gujarat MLAs stood at 83% for the whole term, with two members registering 100% attendance.

87 Bills were passed by the Assembly since the beginning of its term in 2008 till September 2011.  Of these, 80 Bills i.e. over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced.  None of the Bills were referred to any Committee.  In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days

Amendments sought by the President and the Governor

One of the significant laws passed by the 12th Assembly was the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2003 which was introduced and passed in July 2009.  However the Bill did not receive the Presidents Assent and was sent back to the Gujarat Assembly for amendments.

In December 2009, the assembly passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009 which sought to make voting compulsory in elections to local self-government bodies like municipal corporations and Panchayats.  The Gujarat governor returned the Bill for reconsideration in 2010.  It was re-introduced in the house in September 2010 without changes.

Another Bill that was returned by the Governor was the Gujarat Regularisation of Unauthorised Development Bill which sought to regularise unauthorised construction on payment of an Impact Fee.  The Bill was passed by the Assembly in March 2011.  The Governor returned the Bill with a suggestion to include a provision to bar the regularisation of unauthorised construction beyond a specified date.  The Bill was re-introduced and passed with amendments by the Assembly in September 2011.

From the states: Data on functioning of state legislatures

December 20th, 2010 No comments

Apropos Madhukar’s post on available information on the functioning of state legislatures, data on the number of days State Assemblies shows a mixed trend over the 2000 to 2010 period. However, most states uniformly under perform when it comes to number of days of sitting. (Spreadsheet with relevant data here)

As with Parliament, state assemblies are convened at the will of the executive. In comparison to the Lok Sabha, the state assemblies perform miserably. In any given year, most state assemblies do not sit for even half the number of the days clocked by the Lok Sabha.

The India Leadership Workshop: An initiative by PRS Legislative Research and Indian School of Business

December 20th, 2010 No comments

Parliament passes an average of 60 Bills a year.  Each state legislature also passes a similar volume of legislation addressing an array of complex issues.  Bills cover subjects ranging from microfinance, land acquisition, and honour killings to the impact of pesticides on health.  Legislative matters have become increasingly more technical and require specialist inputs to be framed as effective public policy.

Unlike other large democracies, legislators in India do not have access to institutional research support.  Access to formal information channels is normally available only to the Minister drafting the bill or to the select committee if the bill is referred to it. This deprives MLAs from participating in a more informed debate.

Towards this end, PRS and the Indian School of Business (ISB) have initiated the first policy workshop of its kind for MLAs in India.  There is an emerging breed of proactive MLAs who are willing to seek out information to help them perform their role better. There are over 4000 MLAs in India, and a small group of MLAs in many states are showing this initiative.  They use the internet, consult specialists, and use resources like PRS to get updated or further information on issues affecting their state.

About the Workshop

The India Leadership workshop is for MLAs who want to be more effective legislators and assume positions of greater influence in state and national policymaking.

This unique workshop is for rising stars who want to imbibe new approaches to policymaking and build professional networks with MLAs from different states.  The programme is led by distinguished faculty from internally reputed institutions including Harvard, IITs and IIMs.

The three day workshop for progressive MLAs will be held at the campus of ISB in Hyderabad. Four such sessions will be held during the year, with the maiden edition being launched in January 2011.  Over the last five years, PRS has worked with MPs across all political parties to brief them on relevant issues for their work in Parliament.  MPs have recommended that MLAs also would benefit from similar research services.

Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, Indian School of Business (ISB) says, “The ISB is committed to working with the Industry and the Government to help achieve national goals. We already have had a long track of engaging with public sector enterprises, and more recently with various government departments, in both executive education and research. We are now delighted to partner with the PRS Legislative Research to develop this programme targeted at capacity building among Indian Legislators. We believe that this ongoing interaction between the government and academia will strengthen our collective understanding of national priorities and spur collaboration for greater impact.”

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From the states: Andhra Pradesh State Assembly OKs microfinance bill

December 16th, 2010 No comments

Reuters news agency has reported that the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly has approved legislation to regulate the microfinance sector. The Assembly ratified an earlier ordinance curbing operations by MFI lenders. The ordinance took effect in October in response to news reports on suicides among borrowers.

http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53571720101215

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From the states: Bihar govt to scrap fund allocation for MLAs, MLCs

December 15th, 2010 No comments

News agencies have reported that the newly elected NDA Government has decided in its cabinet meeting to scrap the existing allocation of funds for Local Area Development scheme for Bihar MLAs and MLCs.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/nitish-govt-to-scrap-fund-allocation-for-mlas-mlcs/723368/

‘Jack of all trades: How can MPs fulfil all their roles?’

October 25th, 2010 1 comment

At an event organised by the Hansard Society, a UK based political research and education charity, MPs spoke about what their role entails and the challenges the face in fulfilling their role.  It is striking to note the similarity between what our Parliamentarians have to share about the challenges they face in their roles as representative of the people and what the UK MPs have shared.

  • Management of their diary i.e. Time Management and prioritizing issues are important to the MP being able to do justice to his various roles
  • The MPs stated that the constituency expects action from them on issues which fall within the purview of the local Government and should have been taken up with the councillor. These could be issues related to public works, schools and the like.
  • Quite often the local councillor is unknown to the population and since the MP is easily recognizable, local issues are taken up with him. The MP is obliged to take up the issue because he cannot be seen to turn anyone away.
  • People assume that if you are not seen on the streets you aren’t doing your job. Therefore constituency visits are deemed important and end up taking quite a bit of time, which could have been otherwise devoted to legislative work.
  • MPs with a thin majority tend to focus more on local issues for fear of not being able to retain their seat. They tend to try that much harder to address local issues, even with the knowledge that it is not their primary responsibility.
  • Some MPs felt that the committee work should be of foremost priority instead of just an additional responsibility for the MP, as it is at the committee level that all aspects of the legislation can be examined and worked on in detail.
  • MPs should be encouraged to specialize in subjects so that they develop their knowledge in there area of interest.

In general, there are three views the MP has to balance: The Party’s, The Constituency’s and his or her Personal views. For example the debate on Wind Farms for renewable energy which spoil the landscape, or immigration. These are subjects where the three views may be vary greatly from each other and the MP has to balance each of these.
Ultimately, loyalty to party is a must, since the MP won on the party’s ticket, so the MP owes his/her allegiance to the Party and should endorse the Party’s views.

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