The opening of the impressive new Parliament building is indeed a historic event and intended to mark the foundation of India’s glorious future. On deeper introspection, it really matters little whether the President was invited or not, whether the Prime Minister was correct in opening the new building or whether the “Sengol” was the right symbol to adopt or signify the beginning of a new phase.
Of far greater concern is the steady deterioration in the functioning of Parliament and its increasing irrelevance. Decadal data furnished by PRS Legislative Research shows a startling reduction in the average of annual sitting days. From a high of 127 days during 1952-1960, it dropped to 77 days for 1991-2000 and to 64 days in 2011-20. The average for the last two years is 58 days. The 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) was scheduled to sit for 606 days but the actual sitting was just 357 days with 51 per cent of time lost due to adjournments. The 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019) had a scheduled sitting of just 337 days over a five-year period and lost 16 per cent of that time due to adjournments.
In session after session, even before 2014, proceedings have been stalled by shouting and, even worse, by entering into the well of the house, tearing up legislative bills and similar disruptive antics. How many times has the nation witnessed a proper debate on any important bill or a current issue of national importance? It is equally the duty of the Speaker to permit the Opposition to raise and discuss matters of national importance, even if they are not to the liking of the ruling majority. As is oft-repeated, the Opposition must have its say and the ruling majority must have its way.