Parliaments Past, A Mirror to Changing Dynamics


05:40 AM

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Why in News?

  • In an atypical departure from its usual five-day working schedule, the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024) concluded its proceedings on a Saturday, marking the culmination of a journey with unexpected twists and turns.
  • This prompts a reflection at the recent parliamentary performance, highlighting trends, challenges, and prospects for the upcoming 18th Lok Sabha.

Parliamentary Trends and How Ministries Fared

  • Decline in Notices Directed at the PMO
    • The PMO faced 1,146 questions from Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament, of which only 28 were answered.
    • Interestingly, just as in the House of Elders, the notices directed at the Prime Minister’s Office witnessed a sharp decline also in the House of the People.
    • From 5,000 during the 15th and 16th Lok Sabhas to a mere 1,700 in the 17th Lok Sabha underscoring waning interest in seeking answers from the apex executive office.
  • Shifting Parliamentary Focus
    • Over the past Lok Sabhas, there has been a noticeable shift in the focus of parliamentary discussions and debates.
    • This shift reflects the changing interests and priorities of elected representatives as they respond to evolving societal, economic, and political dynamics.
  • Rise of Health and Agriculture Ministries
    • Ministries related to health and agriculture have gained prominence in parliamentary discourse, indicating increased scrutiny and attention on these critical sectors.
    • The significant number of questions directed towards the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare and Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare suggests a heightened awareness and concern about issues related to public health, healthcare infrastructure, agricultural productivity and farmer welfare.
    • The increased focus on these ministries may be attributed to various factors such as public health crises, agrarian distress, and the need for policy interventions to address related challenges.
  • Decline in National Security Interest
    • On the other hand, there has been a decline in parliamentary interest in matters of national security and internal affairs.
    • The reduced number of questions directed towards the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was previously a key focus area, raises questions about the shifting priorities of lawmakers and the perceived urgency of security-related issues.
    • This decline in interest may reflect a perception among lawmakers that other pressing issues, such as healthcare, agriculture, and economic revival, warrant greater attention and resources.
  • Decline in Parliamentary Interest in Finance Ministry
    • As India aims for economic resurgence and growth, the Ministry of Finance plays a crucial role in steering the nation's fiscal policies and economic trajectory.
    • However, there has been a decline in parliamentary interest in the Finance Ministry, particularly in terms of the number of questions raised.
    • Despite this decline, there are signs of increasing transparency and accountability efforts within the Ministry, as indicated by the rising rate of questions admitted for deliberation.
    • This suggests a renewed commitment to fiscal oversight and governance in financial matters.

An Analysis of Parliamentary Interventions

  • Rising Usage of Zero Hour
    • Zero Hour refers to a period during parliamentary proceedings where Members of Parliament can raise urgent matters of public importance without prior notice.
    • The significant surge in the usage of Zero Hour interventions in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha indicates an increased focus on addressing pressing issues and seeking clarifications from the government.
    • Zero Hour allows MPs to draw attention to emerging issues, crises, or public concerns that require immediate attention, thereby serving as a platform for responsive governance and accountability.
    • The rise in Zero Hour interventions reflects a proactive approach by parliamentarians in engaging with critical issues and holding the government accountable for its actions.
  • Dwindling Usage of Other Interventions
    • On the other hand, there has been a decline in the usage of other parliamentary interventions such as 'Half-an-Hour Discussions', 'Short Notice Questions', 'Calling Attention', 'Short Duration Discussions', and 'Special Mentions'.
    • These interventions provide avenues for in-depth discussions, seeking specific information, drawing attention to important matters, and highlighting specific grievances or concerns.
    • The dwindling usage of these interventions may suggest a shifting parliamentary focus towards more immediate and urgent matters, as reflected in the increased reliance on Zero Hour interventions.

Systematic Challenges and Missed Opportunities for Legislative Engagement

  • Systemic Challenges in Oversight
    • Despite the importance of parliamentary oversight in holding the government accountable, there are systemic challenges that hinder its effectiveness.
    • One significant challenge is the increase in the number of disallowed questions, particularly in the Rajya Sabha.
    • This trend indicates obstacles in obtaining necessary information and accountability from the government.
    • The high percentage of disallowed questions in key ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs, Defence, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, and Finance raises concerns about transparency and responsiveness within these sectors.
    • These challenges highlight the need for reforms to streamline the oversight process, ensure greater access to information, and strengthen mechanisms for holding the government accountable for its actions.
  • Missed Opportunities for Legislative Engagement
    • Instances of oversight, such as the failure to raise privilege motions against misleading remarks and missed discussions on critical issues, underscore missed opportunities for legislative engagement.
    • For example, the failure to address sensitive issues like student suicides due to competitive exams during the Winter Session, 2023 of the Rajya Sabha highlights a gap in addressing societal concerns through parliamentary channels.
    • Missed opportunities for legislative engagement diminish the effectiveness of Parliament in addressing pressing issues, fostering constructive debate, and enacting policies that prioritise the welfare of the nation and its citizens.

Way Forward

  • Revitalising Legislative Engagement
    • There is a pressing need to revitalise legislative engagement to ensure that Parliament effectively addresses pressing issues, fosters constructive debate, and enacts policies that prioritize the welfare of the nation and its citizens.
    • This can be achieved by encouraging active participation of MPs in parliamentary proceedings, promoting informed discussions on key issues, and ensuring that every opportunity is seized to hold the government accountable for its actions.
  • Enhancing Transparency and Accountability
    • Parliament must prioritise enhancing transparency and accountability in governance by strengthening mechanisms for parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of government actions.
    • This could involve introducing reforms to streamline the processing of questions, ensuring timely responses from the government, and reducing the number of disallowed questions.
  • Strengthening Parliamentary Committees
    • Parliamentary committees play a crucial role in scrutinising government policies and expenditures, conducting inquiries, and making recommendations for legislative action.
    • There is a need to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of parliamentary committees by providing adequate resources, training, and support to members.


  • The analysis of the 17th Lok Sabha's performance unveils both promising trends and challenges in parliamentary functioning.

As the nation anticipates the 18th Lok Sabha, it is imperative to address systemic challenges, revitalise legislative engagement, and ensure balanced utilisation of parliamentary interventions to foster constructive debate and enact policies for the nation's welfare.  

Q) What is the role of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in Indian parliamentary affairs?

The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, as the presiding officer, plays a crucial role in maintaining order and decorum during parliamentary proceedings. They ensure that debates are conducted impartially, grant permission to speak, and decide on matters of procedure. Additionally, the Speaker is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the rules of the House, facilitating discussions, and casting deciding votes in case of a tie.

Q) How are parliamentary committees significant in Indian democracy?

Parliamentary committees serve as vital mechanisms for scrutinising legislation, examining government policies, and holding the executive accountable. These committees, composed of members from various political parties, conduct in-depth inquiries, seek expert opinions, and make recommendations to improve governance and legislation. By fostering bipartisan cooperation and expertise-driven decision-making, parliamentary committees enhance transparency, efficiency, and oversight within India's democratic framework.

Source:The Hindu