Friday, October 5, 2012

Parliament, Question Hour and how active are MPs from Tamil Nadu ??



India is a Parliamentary democracy.  We, the people of India, by Universal franchise, elect our representatives, who represent our Constituencies, enter Parliament, discuss, debate there and speak on our behalf. Asking of questions is an inherent and unfettered parliamentary right of members. It is during the Question Hour that the members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and Governmental activity.

The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in India. Founded in 1919, the Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all political bodies in India. The Parliament comprises the President of India and the two Houses—Lok Sabha (House of the People) and Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The MPs of Lok Sabha are directly elected by the Indian public and the MPs of Rajya Sabha are elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies, in accordance with proportional representation. The Parliament comprises of  790 MPs, who serve the largest democratic electorate in the world.

The right to ask questions was given to the legislators for the first time by the Act of 1892, and to ask supplementary questions in 1909. Any act of the Government can be made the subject of a question. Even though the question is directed to a particular minister, it is his office that is responsible for framing a response.   India's very first major financial scam was brought to light during the 2nd Lok Sabha when Feroze Gandhi questioned the finance ministry regarding government owned Life Insurance Corporation's unauthorized investment into Haridas Mundhra's companies.  The following procedural changes have been in force since the 5th session of the 15th Lok Sabha:[1]
ü      A 15 day notice period is now to be given to the minister to respond to a question in Parliament (concept of minimum and maximum notice duration has been removed). The notice duration used to be a minimum of 10 days or maximum of 21 days.
ü      The Speaker now has the authority to direct answers to a starred question asked by a member in case of his or her absence on the day their name was called.
ü      A member is now required to make a statement in the House correcting the reply given by him or her earlier, irrespective of whether the reply given pertained to a starred or unstarred or a short notice question.
ü      The maximum questions, starred or unstarred, a member is now entitled to give is 10 per day.

A member whose question has been admitted and which is included in the list of questions for oral answers for a particular day, rises in his/her seat when the turn of his/her question comes and asks his/her question by reading out its number on the list of questions. The Minister concerned answers the question. Thereafter the member who had asked the question can ask only two supplementary questions.

Generally, the first hour of a sitting of Lok Sabha is devoted to Questions and that hour is called the Question Hour. It has a special significance in the proceedings of Parliament.  The Question Hour is an interesting part of the Parliamentary proceedings. Although a question mainly seeks information and tries to elicit facts on a particular subject, there are many a time lively and quicksilver repartees between the Members asking the questions and the Ministers answering them. These repartees are sometimes coupled with flashes of wit and humour.

With a view to familiarising the public at large about the manner in which the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament are conducted in the Question Hour and how their representatives raise various issues of national/international importance, proceedings of the Question Hour are being  telecast since 2 December 1991.  The Questions that are put in Parliament are of four types:—
Starred, Unstarred, Short Notice Questions and Questions addressed to private Members. A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer in the House and which is distinguished by an asterisk mark. When a question is answered orally, supplementary questions can be asked thereon. Only 20 questions can be listed for oral answer on a day.

If that made an interesting read, here are some more……. It is reported that  Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari asked the privileges committee to study the series of wrong replies given by various ministers in the Upper House of Parliament.  The parliamentary panel will try to fix responsibility in the recent cases of wrong information supplied to the House in response to questions posed by various members.

Even though the ministers corrected their replies in many cases, it led to howls of protests from other MPs. In a recent instance, Minister of State (MoS) for finance Namo Narain Meena on Thursday corrected his earlier reply given to the Rajya Sabha on August 9. An embarrassed government had even admitted in the Supreme Court l that information given in the Upper House on the Ashok Chawla panel suggestions on the allocation of natural resources was incorrect.

So, if you had thought that the purpose of the Question Hour is to hold the government accountable – the fact that there have been wrong answers shakes such faith.  

There is an interesting site : http://www.prsindia.org/ - it seeks to strengthen the legislative process by making it better informed, more transparent and participatory.  Here is some statistics extracted from the site, on how much active MPs from the State of Tamilnadu have been in the present 15th Lok Sabha.  It is stated that  Ministers do not sign the attendance register. As they represent the Government in Parliament, they do not ask questions, participate in debates as ordinary members, or introduce private member bills. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker follow similar conventions. The Leader of the Opposition does not sign the attendance register but does take part in all other activities. The data provided here is for all MPs for the period that they did not occupy any of these positions. Here is the plain extract, you can form your own opinion yourself and hold it self...... 
Name
 Constituency
Pary
Attendance Percent
Q asked
Adhi Sankar
Kallakurichi
DMK
54%
74
Andimuthu Raja
Nilgiris
DMK
14%
0
Danapal Venugopal
Tiruvannamalai
DMK
64%
5
Dayanidhi Maran
Chennai Central
DMK
69%
0
M. Krishnaswamy
Arani
Congress
89%
46
O. S. Manian
Mayiladuthurai
ADML
61%
20
T.K.S. Elangovan
Chennai North
DMK
93%
15
Thirumaa Valavan Thol
Chidambaram
VCK
47%
16
the low and high - MPs from Tamilnadu
Name
 Constituency
Pary
Attendance Percent
Q asked
C. Sivasami
Tiruppur
ADMK
69%
458
E.G. Sugavanam
Krisnagiri
DMK
56%
616
K. Sugumar
Pollachi
ADMK
84%
402
P. Kumar
Tiruchirappalli
ADMK
85%
367
P. Viswanathan
Kancheepuram
Congress
85%
462
R. Thamaraiselvan
Dharmapuri
DMK
81%
487
S. Alagiri
Cuddalore
Congress
70%
399
S. R. Jeyadurai
Thoothukkudi
DMK
58%
451
S. Semmalai
Salem
ADMK
85%
391
S.S. Ramasubbu
Tirunelveli
Congress
98%
754
Statistics as extracted on 26th Sept. 2012  from : http://www.prsindia.org/index.php?name=mptracklok&action=mptracklok


With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
27th Sept. 2012.

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