As standoffs continue unabated between Government and Opposition members, is it not time that the procedures, rules and regulations, as well as the customs of Parliament and the legislative assemblies be changed? The manner in which these representative bodies function is rooted in the much more leisurely times of the nineteenth century. In this day and age, when information flows in real time, should not changes be introduced in the functioning? At the very least, should not a commission be appointed into what ails parliamentary procedures and in areas where members feel there are shortcomings that deprive them of the opportunity to represent their constituents better?
For instance, should proceedings begin with Question Hour, or the burning issue of the day? So often, Question Hour is sacrificed to the protests of opposition members demanding that an issue be discussed before anything else. If the Speaker disagrees and the members are adamant, the House has to be adjourned, sometimes even for the next day. Should not parliamentary democracy change its approach and take up the most important matter first thing in the morning? Every other institution does that for better and more efficient functioning.
If questioned, legislators will have any number of suggestions on how parliament and the assemblies could become more effective, provide cutting edge legislation and improved governance. In fact, should sessions be as short as they are at present, considering the massive backlog of urgent legislative work? The most important bills that are expected to revolutionise government functioning have been lying in suspended animation merely because sessions fall prey to one or the other controversy. Can India afford in this day and age to dither on issues for such long periods? Often, the very basis of the legislation becomes obsolete because of changing circumstances.
In fact, should not Parliament also be looking on urgent basis at the mass of past legislation that is out of date and irrelevant? Everybody concedes that one-third of India’s laws are either an unnecessary carry-over from the British era, or out of synch with modern circumstances. Why is there so much junk in the statute books that the implementing agencies get bogged down in understanding and using them, or misuse them by harassing the general public? PM Modi has made a start but not enough has been done.
Should not Information Technology become an integral part of parliament’s functioning, with much of the paper being saved as an example of environmental conservation? Perhaps megascreens should be put up so that speeches can be backed up with visuals and notes. Instead of throwing physical objects at the Speaker or the Treasury Benches, maybe Members could utilise emoticons to express their feelings, which would flash on the big screens.
Considering that the proceedings of the Lok and Rajya Sabhas are broadcast live over TV, should not mass communication experts and event managers be employed to ensure information and all the drama is communicated without the boring interludes? This would lead to greater people’s involvement and viewership. Instead of shouting and interrupting speeches, members could Tweet their running comments which would scroll across the big screen!! There is no end to the innovations possible for better utilisation of time, which is today the most precious resource for any nation or people. Surely, such an important issue deserves a body to give recommendations on improvements in a country where any and everything is referred to a commission?