New Delhi, June 9: They are lazy. They don’t do their homework. They don’t ask the right questions. And when they ask they take too long over it. Still at least some of them go home with a report card that speaks glowingly of their performance.
They author it themselves: “Look Ma, how brilliant I have been!”
But a report by a citizens’ group suggests many of our people’s representatives have not been doing quite that brilliantly.
Seventy per cent of MPs go to Parliament just like the backbencher in school — no preparation at all, says the report on governance and development, authored by the Social Watch in India, a national network of civil liberties organisations.
“They ask repetitive questions out of laziness and lack of seriousness. The questions are merely for the sake of statistics. The MPs waste Parliament time by asking for information which is already available in printed publications,” says the report.
It’s not that those responsible for replying — the ministers — are any better, says the report.
Question hour between 11 and 12 is meant to give MPs an opportunity to extract information from the government on issues that matter to the people.
“But a look at some of the questions shows how MPs waste time by asking questions that should not have been asked in the first place,” says the report.
Like what' Questions about the national health policy are a favourite. Why ask as the policy document is freely available.
No session goes by without questions about the infant mortality rate and maternal health-care, “answers to which can easily be found in the ministry’s annual reports”, the report says.
In the last Parliament session, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the Rajya Sabha chairperson, pulled up a Congress MP for asking too many questions that seemed to be of little relevance.
“There are some MPs who ask good questions but their number, unfortunately, is not very high,” it says.
Even if they ask the right question, they take too long doing it. “The questions are so lengthy that out of 20 listed questions the House finally manages to deal with only 2 or 3,” says V.K. Malhotra, the BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha.
In the last winter session of the Rajya Sabha, 138 matters came up for special mention — they are supposed to be important. However, only a fourth, or 34, related to the social sector or were “important”, the report appears to suggest.
“Many MPs produce report cards before their constituencies to tell the people how active they are in Parliament.”
If you’re expecting honesty from the government, forget it. On July 27, 2002, an MP asked Ram Naik, the minister of petroleum and natural gas, whether the CBI had come across a network of racketeers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra taking delivery of subsidised oil from Gujarat and other states.
On November 23 that year, the MP asked the same question. He was assured that the information was being collected, but it has not been given till date.
No one likes asking or answering questions in the House, it seems. And, everyone — at least some of those who’re running the country — loves a rainy day.
“There are ministers who heave a sigh of relief when the House gets adjourned, just as schoolchildren rejoice when the school suddenly closes,” says BJP’s Malhotra.
Proof again that there’s a child in every adult.