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    EditorialNot qualified for being ‘Elders’

    Not qualified for being ‘Elders’


    Not qualified for being ‘Elders'

    Last Friday the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for lack of quorum. Only 23 MPs were present — 18 from the government and five from the Opposition.

    Several MPs were seen chatting outside parliament but did not enter the chamber even after Dy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Mr. Kurien sounded the quorum alarm. Kurien finally adjourned the House under the rule that requires a minimum quorum of 10 per cent of the 250 strength of the House.

    So why do we need the Rajya Sabha? It doesn't — certainly not without sweeping reforms. Those reforms should begin with the . In a country with a population of 125 crore, the Lok Sabha's 545 MPs (including two nominated MPs) are grossly inadequate. The ratio works out to one MP for roughly 23 lakh citizens. In 1952, when 's population was just over 38 crore, the Lok Sabha had a strength of 489 — a much better average of one MP for around seven lakh citizens. Britain with a population (6.5 crore) that's one-20th India's, has 650 MPs in the House of Commons — an average of one MP for one lakh citizens.

    The average size of a constituency in England is 72,000. In Scotland it is 69,000 and in Wales 56,000. In India, constituencies run into tens of lakhs, making them unwieldy and increasingly untenable.

    Delimitation has changed the contours of some constituencies but sizes have not changed significantly. The key is to increase the number of MPs in the Lok Sabha. After careful constituency-wise evaluation, the number of constituencies can be increased in the first phase to around 700. That would still leave each Lok Sabha MP to deal with an average of over 18 lakh citizens.

    Simultaneously, the strength of the Rajya Sabha must be downsized from the present 250 to 100. Unelected MPs are a drain on the treasury. Their increasingly irresponsible behaviour has lowered the image of the Upper House and disrupted legislative .

    Downsizing the number of Rajya Sabha MPs is a necessity but not sufficient reform. The Upper House has far too often been used to stall legislation. It cannot, under present rules, hold up money bills. It should in fact not be allowed to stop legislation of any kind.

    The rules governing the conduct of the two Houses need reform as well. While the Lok Sabha can suspend unruly MPs and even marshall them out, the Rajya Sabha cannot. Given the behaviour we have witnessed from MPs in the Upper House in recent weeks that exemption must be removed. If you disrupt either House, you belong outside, not inside, parliament.

    In the House of Commons the slightest disruption is dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly by the Speaker. Since 1900 Britain has had less than 50 disruptions, each lasting, on average, less than one hour before the Speaker ensures the House resumes normal business.

    In contrast, Indian Speakers are both weak and partisan. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has proved particularly ineffectual. Despite senior BJP leader LK Advani's reprimand directed at her last week, and President Pranab Mukherjee's admonition of MPs' is basically implied that Mahajan has failed to control the House.

    The chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice- President Hamid Ansari, has been equally disappointing. He established his partisan credentials by stalling a vote on the Lokpal bill at the stroke of midnight on December 30, 2011 and adjourning the House sine die. Ever since, his stewardship of the Rajya Sabha has been partisan and anaemic. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien, has been equally ineffective, though he does make an attempt to appear impartial and firm. He is neither.

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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