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No business as usual

india Updated: Sep 11, 2007 23:49 IST

Hindustan Times
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In a country where the vast majority of people are lucky to get one square meal a day, the loss of Rs 34,500 per minute is criminal. Well, that is exactly how much the exchequer — read: our taxes — loses when work is disrupted in Parliament. Are our political worthies apologetic about this? Not at all. They seem to revel in disruption, as seen yet again in the manner in which the debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal has been stalled. An exasperated Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, said of the obstruction, “This is becoming a disease. You are insulting the chair. This is unpardonable,” as the opposition NDA took to storming the well of the House until Parliament wasadjourned.

At the end of the day, is the public any clearer on what the NDA was objecting to? No, perhaps because the NDA itself isn’t. After electing our representatives, surely it isn’t too much to ask that they conduct themselves in a dignified manner and put forward cogent arguments on issues rather than behave like errant schoolchildren. In this current session, both Houses worked for barely half the time — often meeting for just an hour a day. Of the listed 380 questions, only 35 were answered. Several pieces of legislation were passed without a word of discussion and debate. This is alarming. In this session, the death of 1,200 people in floods, the terror strike in Hyderabad and spiralling prices were not even raised.

We all know that our parliamentary decorum is dismal. But the manner in which the PM was attacked on the nuclear deal suggests that the bar has been drastically lowered. In the past, there would be a degree of public outrage at such disruptionist tactics. Today, people have ceased to have any expectations of our parliamentarians and are indifferent to their shenanigans. The current impasse was brought about on the grounds that the nuclear deal will compromise our sovereignty. The truth is that we need no external help; our MPs are doing a perfectly good job of undermining our sovereignty. Very few seem concerned that the forum of Parliament is no longer being used for the purpose it was set up: that of providing checks and balances for democracy.