Role of Parliamentarians in Advocating Legislations

[ Ninong Ering & Akash Kumar Singh ]
Noted scholar Francis Fukuyama in his most celebrated work “The End of History and the Last Man” published in 1992 argues that the advent of liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution and the final form of human government. He terms the democracy to be the best form of government and believes that liberal democratic principles are probably the best though humans can ever think or argue. Therefore, he argues the democracy to be ‘The End of History’.
What makes democracy the most desirable form of government is its premise of accommodation. The premise of democracy is so comprehensive that it assimilates and seeks to accommodate diversities, irrespective of social, economic, political-economic and ideological differences. As elected representatives represent these diversities, democracy provides some sort of power to every representative, be it direct or indirect. Arguing the treasury bench or party in power of exercising absolute power will not be a sign of maturity. A massive amount of indirect powers are entitled to the opposition legislators. Besides discharging the duty of checking the power of the government, the opposition plays an important role in advocacy of legislation.
Policies in a democracy are resultants of consensus building and involving the interests of all the stakeholders. Government calls for or considers consultations with all the stakeholders. During the consultations, the stakeholders try to influence the policy-making by persuading others to support their positions. Opposition parties and their legislators play a major role here. The government keeps an eye on every question asked or intervention made by the legislators and tries to consider their stand. A similar provision is the idea of Private Members’ Bill. Though these bills rarely get passes, they are instrumental in advocating the ideas of legislation in the bill and brings to the notice of the government that a certain demand is being made by the public. In the case when the bill gets intensively debated and creates a buzz, the bill might be taken up by the government and introduced as a legislation by making certain modifications.
Private Members’ Bills are of greater relevance to legislators from underrepresented areas. With a lesser electoral relevance for the national politics, such bills give voices and when introduced, argue the ideas and needs of the people belonging to respective constituencies. Being the only member of Parliament from opposition representing Arunachal Pradesh, I am (Ninong Ering) introducing four Private Member Bills in the current session of the Parliament. These bills are aimed either at initiating major debates or introducing major governance reforms. The bills are based on needs of the hour, which were never thought or worked upon before and if passed, could prove to be revolutionary.
The first bill is the Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017. The bill entitles women working as an employee in any public/ private organization with two days of paid menstrual leave every month. Further, the bill seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation. There had been frequent demands across India to further amend the Labour Laws in order to provide better working facilities to the female employees. The Menstruation Leave movement has gained momentum across the nation and there had been intense demands to entitle women with paid leave during menstruation. Besides, there had been demands to provide intermediate breaks during menstruation in the working days and facilities for rest at the workplace in India. A lot of women, media, and civil society organisations have begun addressing the difficulties associated with menstruation and demanding paid Menstrual Leave. The success of several campaigns and petitions launched for Menstrual Leave asserts that the movement is gaining fast momentum in India. A couple of companies in India have individually introduced the policy of paid Menstrual Leaves for their female employees
The second bill to be introduced is The Right to Public Service Bill, 2017, and confers right on every individual citizen to time-bound delivery of services and redressal of grievances. The RTPS legislations are meant to reduce corruption among the government officials and to increase transparency and public accountability. The basic essence of having a representative form of democracy in a nation is to entitle the citizens with basic services by the state. Therefore, it becomes the primary duty of the government to deliver services to the public. Failing to deliver public services to the citizens within the specified time limit, the government would have to pay compensation to the public. Most of the corruption takes place in government offices in the delivery of public services. Due to non-accountability to deliver public services in time, common people have to bribe the government officials. This bill could be a milestone to prevent day to day corruption
A provision of the third bill, titled as the Representation of People Amendment Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017, makes it necessary for every Member of Parliament to declare their property assets and wealth within 90 days after cessation/end of their respective tenures. Already there are provisions for declaration of assets and liabilities by every elected candidate of either House of Parliament within a period of ninety days from the date on which he takes his seat. However, there are no such provisions for declaration of assets and liabilities after the expiry of the term of membership. The proposed amendment in the parent bill seeks to disclose the income and assets even after the completion of the term of House by each Member of Parliament. The reason I placed this bill was to bring consciousness to our colleagues that after elections win or lose one should not be harassed for his assets and property. If there is a justified increase in one’s property or assets the question of victimisation would not be there. I have been twice MLA including Minister and Deputy Speaker also twice MP and Union Minister but my assets can be verified practically through the net. Hence this bill is being placed so that no ill will or misunderstanding prevails if in power or not. We must come above politics and take it sportingly.
The fourth bill seeks to modify the structure of the Press Council of India and bring electronic media within its premise of control, action and jurisdiction and it titled as the Press Council Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017. During the period of enactment of the act, only the industry of newspapers and news agencies existed. Television was in experimental phase. With the development of audiovisual and satellite technologies, Television news emerged as a major industry with a greater share in the information industry and greater influence on the perception of the citizen. There is no public institution maintaining and improving the standards of TV news industry. Therefore, for improving the standards and looking after the malpractices of the broadcast news, they need to be brought under the Press Council of India. Self-regulation leads to better maintenance of the industry and lesser conflicts. The basic elements of self-regulation usually consist of a code of practice or guidelines adopted by the industry and processes by which application of the code or principles may be assessed, complaints handled and corrections applied. Therefore, besides regulation by a public institution, the inter-industry regulation should be constituted. The bill includes the provision to constitute, promote and check the functioning of self-regulatory institutions within the powers and functions of the Press Council of India.
The Private Members’ Bills along with parliamentary interventions bring relevant issues in public domain and into the notice of the government. The discussed bills are attempts to introduce legislation, failing to which would make a way for similar legislation to come. Irrespective of the fortune of the bills, we should be assured that these bills will trigger a demand for respective legislation to be introduced, address the issues and suggest ideas to solve them and finally pave the way for legislation to be formed.
(Ninong Ering is MP, Eastern Parliamentary Constituency (Arunachal) Akash Kumar Singh is a LAMP Fellow)