Panaji: Indians in general are unhappy with the functioning of our legislatures and public perception about the goings-on in parliament is a matter of "serious concern", Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said Monday.
Naidu, who was addressing the 16th All India Whips Conference at a South Goa resort, also said the credibility of the parliament and state legislatures had eroded due to criminalisation of politics, rise of money power, repeated disruptions, conduct of legislators etc and that the rot had to be stemmed.
"...the chief patrons of democracy, the people are in general not happy and upbeat about the way our legislatures are functioning over the years," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ascent to prime ministership had, however, given a "new sense of hope and enthusiasm" to the countrymen.
"Public perception about the functioning of our parliament and state legislatures is a matter of serious concern," Naidu said.
"Credibility of these vital institutions is eroding for various reasons including criminalisation of politics, rise of money power, declining numbers of sittings of the August houses, repeated disruptions and adjournments, questionable conduct of some legislators inside and outside the houses etc."
"This cannot go on like this, it is time we strive for a change (in) the way we operate our sacred institutions of democracy," he said, adding that in light of the circumstances, the role of the political whip assumed importance.
Naidu said declining number of sittings and "frequent disruptions and forced adjournments" which left the houses without transacting any business on several days on end was unhealthy for democracy and had serious implications.
He also said it was "depressing" to see the Question Hour, which in a democratic system ensures accountability of permanent executive was repeatedly disrupted.
"It is depressing to see that disruption of such an important window of parliamentary oversight has come to become a 'routine way of political expression'. This has serious implications," he said.
Naidu in his speech also proposed a set duration of days during which the legislatures and the parliament had to function annually.
"So I suggest that this conference should consider stipulating a minimum of 40 sittings per year in case of small states and 70, in case of other states and a minimum of 100 days per year for the parliament," he said.
Inadequacy of education and training in operational mechanics of parliamentary polity and the working procedures of modern parliamentary institutions was also adversely affects the performance of the legislators, the minister said.
Naidu also asked lawmakers to debate the issue of privileges accorded to parliament which were in the process of being codified.
The agenda for the conference is to find a way forward towards enhancing the credibility of legislators and the legislatures, enable quality debates through necessary empowerment besides seeking to address the concerns being widely voiced in respect of privileges and code of conduct of members, among other issues.