Irony of the productive parliament

Posted: May 25, 2013 in Politics

Google Play Store houses a number of apps categorised under ‘productivity’. Google’s content editors have classified these as such. It is debatable whether these actually help improve productivity or not. But anyway people think about how small things like predictive keyboards help in their day-to-day lives, to work or complete tasks more efficiently. And so be more productive in whatever they do.

Ironically, when it comes to taking decisions which impact lives of over 1 billion Indians, productivity seems to be immaterial. TOI had printed an article last month which stated that the current parliament has had 1157 hours of sitting. This is deemed to be the lowest number of hours that any parliament (those who have done full terms) has clocked since independence. You would be justified in saying “what do you expect from such ‘leaders’ anyway”? Some would also say that the current government is so corrupt that the opposition is indeed doing a good job to teach it a lesson and stop it from passing any bills. Apparently, this is a strategic move by the opposition.

Parliament of India, Credit:

Parliament of India, Credit:

The statistics are interesting yes. But is this what one should concentrate on? Even if no time had been wasted would you have called the parliament productive? How do you quantify productivity of a parliament? The keen eyed will note that I have used ‘parliament’ not ‘government’. As far as I know, all representatives, be it from the ruling party or the opposition,  inside the parliament have a task and so can, ideally, be measured against some standard. Agreed that the processes inside the parliament are complex but that does not mean that outcomes can’t be measured, surely?

There was a movie starring Anil Kapoor in which he becomes the Chief Minister of a state for 24 hours. He goes about ‘CMing’ in typical movie style. Imagine that you had been given similar powers and asked to draft a set of rules to define productivity norms for parliamentarians. Boy, “draft a set of rules to define productivity norms” sounds heavy! But bear with me.

Lets start with a simple one – attendance. During engineering we had norms to have at least 75% attendance in classes (which was quite difficult frankly :-)). Now our ‘esteemed’ leaders are supposed to be doing a serious job so 75% won’t really do. Lets make it 90%.  Any shortage would automatically be deducted from their salaries (they will be registering their attendance using a retina scanner of course, both in and out :-)).

Forming and modifying legislation is the primary task of our parliament. So obviously the number of such modifications and introduction of new legislations should be a contributing factor. The number, however, would only be half the story. the quality of these legislations would have some weightage. This ‘quality’ should be determined by crowd sourcing – political experts, accomplished academicians and the like being the ‘crowd’. The formula could be something like

Legislation score = (Number of legislations + Number of modifications to legislations) * Quality factor

The opposition’s duty, in theory at least, is to enable a thorough discussion on various bills tabled by the government. A lot of shouting, standing on chairs and tables or boycotting the sessions are various ways our politicians ‘discuss’. Any serious discussion would be based on facts, figures and a reasoned debate. This would, of course, look quite boring on TV. So its quite understandable that our leaders resort to more creative ways of showing disagreement. Is there a better way? Perhaps. Instead of simply broadcasting sessions on national TV, make these sessions interactive with the public. A instant poll on what people think about various member’s skills, behaviour, and work ethics would hopefully shame them enough to behave like responsible people. If you take this argument to the logical conclusion, then a consolidated drubbing in polls over a year or so would be enough to ‘fire’ a parliament member. Too much you think? If people can put the person in the parliament in the first place, then why can’t they fire the same person?

No doubt this is an amateurish set of suggestions. I like to think that the collective knowledge and wisdom of the public would have much better ways of making our parliamentarians be more productive. What would your suggestions be?


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