To encourage and involve the youth in the policy making process at the national level, a model Parliament is being organised in Delhi. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee reports
Most of the student communities today do not consider the workings and affairs of the Indian Parliament as a popular topic of discussion. In order to change this situation, Developing Inclusive Alternatives, an NGO is organising a Model Youth Parliament (MY Parliament) in Delhi end of September. The model legislative body comprises students from various academic fields including engineering, law and media, and opine on different public issues as Members of Parliament do. The participating students get an opportunity to put forth their views in a structured manner as incumbent parliamentarians and bureaucrats will also attend the event. “The idea is to involve students in the legislate process. But since the think tank route has already been taken, we came up with this format which encourages debate and will hopefuly have more impact,” informs Raghav Garg, founder, Developing Inclusive Alternatives.
The students are shortlisted on the basis of an online test and a telephonic interview. In addition to receiving reference material, participants are also trained through a series of policy workshops prior to the event. “I did not think twice before registering for the event because as budding leaders, it is imperative for us to know how a Bill is passed to become an Act,” says Swarnpreet Tuli, a mass communication student.
During the event, the Parliament sessions are divided into question hour, zero hour and legislative business. Issues of national importance including bills related to food security, Lokpal, prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace are also be deliberated upon. “I am hoping to get better knowledge about the functioning of the Parliament and network with likeminded people,” says Mayank Sharma, a law student who is one of the cabinet ministers for the event.
The primary goal of MY Parliament is to remedy the general apathy about the legislative process and different government policies. “We have been conducting a surveys to judge youth awareness and so far the results have been disappointing as majority of them could not even differentiate between the role of an MP and an MLA,” says Supriya Sharma, member of the organising committee.
Sharma emphasises the importance of going beyond the conventional definition of democracy. “There is a misnomer that governance and policies are both a part of politics. During the Nirbhaya protests, I was disheartened to see that even though the youth were angry, only a handful of people were aware of the Criminal Amendment Bill. This needs to change,” she advises.
The participants acknowledge the need for improvement in the legislative affairs of the country. According to Shikhar Srivastava, law student, although the Parliament is a prestigious institution, it has ceased to be impactful. “It needs to take responsiblity commensurate with its power. Transparency, accountability, regularity and a dedication public welfare has to be the goal,” he adds. Ultimately, the goal of MY Parliament is not just to start a discussion but also to be heard by the government. “Once we all start talking about issues, The Parliament will be forced to end the policy paralysis and pass the bills that we want them to pass,” signs off Sharma.