Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 06 April 2024

Parliaments past, a mirror to changing dynamics

Relevance: GS Paper II

Why in News?

The 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024) concluded its proceedings. As India prepares for the general election, citizens of India are encouraged to reflect on the performance of their Parliament in recent years.

Significant shift in parliamentary focus:

  • The current legislative activity indicates a state of flux in the nation's polity, with the Prime Minister's Office receiving 1,146 questions from Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament, with only 28 answered.
  • Notices directed at the Prime Minister's Office also declined in the House of the People, from 5,000 during the 15th and 16th Lok Sabhas to 1,700 in the 17th Lok Sabha, indicating a decline in interest in seeking answers from the apex executive office.
  • Over the past three Lok Sabhas, a shift in parliamentary focus has emerged, revealing the evolving interests and priorities of elected representatives.

Performance of Ministries:

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare have become the top two Ministries with the highest number of questions, notably, scrutiny of the country’s health-care system preceded the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting consistent monitoring by our representatives.
    • However, the number of questions in the House of the People has been declining marginally.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs, which was the second most questioned until the 15th Lok Sabha, has faded into near obscurity.
    • It is conspicuously absent from the list of the top five most questioned Ministries in the Upper House, with a decline in notices by 32%.
    • This raises questions about the nation's priorities, particularly as the implementation of pivotal legislation looms on the horizon.
  • The Ministry of Finance has seen a gradual erosion of parliamentary interest, declining to the fourth and fifth positions in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, respectively.
    • This is concerning as India moves towards economic resurgence from being one of the fragile five economies to aspiring to be one of the top five economies of the world.
    • Despite this disengagement, an increasing rate of questions being admitted for deliberation signals a newfound commitment to transparency and accountability in financial matters.
  • The Ministry of Education remains entrenched among the top five Ministries subject to rigorous questioning, reflecting its enduring significance in parliamentary discourse.
    • In addition to the profound impact on health, the COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted India's educational landscape, but a steadfast commitment to accountability and transparency has endured.
    • However, there has been a notable uptick in the number of questions disallowed, casting a shadow on the efficacy of oversight in this vital sector.

Patterns in parliamentary oversight:

  • Disallowed questions:
    • The percentage of disallowed questions in the Lok Sabha has been decreasing across successive Lok Sabhas, while the Upper House has consistently seen a rise in disallowed questions.
    • In the 17th Lok Sabha, Ministries like Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs, Defence, Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, and Finance made up 36.6% of all disallowed questions in Rajya Sabha, while in the Lok Sabha, they made up 37.8% of the disallowed questions, highlighting systemic issues in parliamentary oversight.
  • The use of interventions:
    • The Indian parliamentary proceedings are undergoing a metamorphosis, with ministerial priorities and interventions changing.
    • Zero Hour, a popular intervention, has seen a significant rise in usage over the past 15 years, with the Rajya Sabha seeing a 62% increase and the Lok Sabha seeing a 34% rise.
      • This indicates a greater focus on addressing pressing issues and seeking government clarifications.
      • This coincides with a dwindling usage of interventions such as ‘Half-an-Hour Discussions’, ‘Short Notice Questions’, ‘Calling Attention’, ‘Short Duration Discussions’, and ‘Special Mentions’.
      • Despite its popularity and usage in addressing key issues, Zero Hour has its inherent limitations.
    • To strike a balance, it is imperative to leverage other interventions such as the ‘Calling Attention’, ‘Short Duration’ and ‘Half and Hour’ discussions which provide a platform for other members to participate in, enhancing the quality of debate and reaching amicable solutions.

Parliamentary engagement:

  • The Lok Sabha has been found to have overlooked opportunities, such as failing to raise privilege motions against misleading remarks.
    • This highlights a larger narrative of government accountability.
  • The Winter Session, 2023 of the Rajya Sabha missed a crucial discussion on the issue of 'Suicides among students due to competitive exams', despite the Chairman's readiness to discuss legislative nuances.
  • The representatives let slip the opportunity to file for a half-hour discussion. This failure to address societal concerns through parliamentary channels is concerning. It marked a failure to address societal concerns through parliamentary channels.
    • There was a time when a strong Opposition could ensure the withdrawal of Bills such as the Communal Violence Bill, 2014. 


The 16th Lok Sabha showed higher proactivity compared to previous sessions, allowing for more open discussions and questioning. This highlights the need for renewed legislative engagement to ensure accountability, foster constructive debate, and enact policies that prioritise the welfare of the nation and its citizens.

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