New Delhi, April 27: To many Indians, the word “politician” invariably invokes familiar scenes of din and disruption in Parliament, if not the taint of corruption.
Yet from time to time, a little-noticed — and perhaps rather quaint — parliamentary tradition tends to suggest that at least some of India’s MPs may have a place in their heart for issues concerning the ordinary citizen.
Of the 79 private members’ bills listed today in the Lok Sabha’s business schedule, most were related to welfare, health, education and other socio-economic challenges.
For instance, if Congress MP Priya Dutt, who comes from a family of film stars, wanted a law on rehabilitating destitute children and protecting the rights of the disabled, the BJP’s Mahendrasinh Chauhan was seeking special courts to deal with atrocities on women and the girl child.
Not too much hope rides on private members’ bills, though. Not a single such bill has been passed in Parliament since 1970, and only 14 have been since Independence — which accounts for the lack of spotlight on them.
Yet these proposed laws may provide a peek into the minds and interests of the MPs championing them.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this business, listed every Friday afternoon, is that the MPs haven’t lost interest despite governments’ tendency to reject these bills. Few of the bills even get debated on, but the members still try to push them with unflagging commitment. The previous Lok Sabha had debated only 14 of the 328 private members’ bills submitted.
The subjects of today’s bills were varied but most affected ordinary people’s lives. They ranged from incest to extravagant spending on weddings, from cash transfer in lieu of subsidies to regulation of coaching centres.
BJP member Nishikant Dubey, who comes from a corporate background, sought a guaranteed pension for workers in the unorganised sector. The Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Jayant Chaudhary wanted the RTI Act amended to bring private firms within its ambit.
The provision allowing every individual MP to propose legislation has given rise to some remarkable bills. A few years ago, Rashtriya Janata Dal member Raghuvansh Prasad Singh introduced a bill that sought a national directory of corrupt people.
On today’s list, Bhola Singh from the Janata Dal (United) proposed a separate rural electrification authority to take care of power supply to farmers, while a Congress MP from Kerala, M.K. Raghavan, sought comprehensive health insurance for every Indian.
Congress MP and Rahul Gandhi aide Meenakshi Natarajan brought a bill for the establishment of an authority capable of regulating the print and electronic media and investigating complaints against them on its own.
Kirit Premjibhai Solanki of the BJP proposed a law banning advertisements that are vulgar, obscene or violent.
A study has shown that around 30 per cent of private members’ bills are aimed at amending the Constitution. However, some have reflected attitudes that go against the Constitution itself.
But for every private member’s bill informed by communal bias or dictatorial tendencies, there have been many driven by philanthropic instincts and coloured with creative ideas, even if they may be inexorably headed for the trash can.