Parliament in 1950s and now: Sittings have shrunk

According to figures collated by PRS Legislative Research, an independent think tank, in the 1950s the Lok Sabha met for an average of 127 days every year and the Rajya Sabha for 93 days.

New Delhi: The number of sittings of both houses of the Indian parliament has gone down drastically over the years, raising concerns by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the efficacy of the pillar of democracy that celebrated the 60th year of its existence Sunday.

According to figures collated by PRS Legislative Research, an independent think tank, in the 1950s the Lok Sabha met for an average of 127 days every year and the Rajya Sabha for 93 days.

This decreased to 73 days for both houses in 2011, according to the PRS document on the changing the trends in the working of parliament over the past 60 years.

The PRS pointed out that various department related standing committees instituted in 1993 held detailed analysis of many bills and issues outside the scheduled sittings of parliament which contributed to the decreasing number of parliament business days, apart from frequent disruptions over various issues.

The PRS document said that the number of sitting of the houses had gone down despite the a pan-India conference of presiding officers, chief ministers, ministers of parliamentary affairs, leaders and whips of parties held in 2001 called for immediate steps to ensure that parliament met for a minimum of 110 days every year.

The conference recommended that this change be brought in through a constitutional amendment, if necessary.

The number of laws passed by parliament have also declined over the years. The first Lok Sabha passed an average of 72 bills each year. This decreased to 40 bills a year in the 15th Lok Sabha.

Parliament passed 118 bills in 1976, the highest in a year. The lowest number of bills - 18 - passed was in 2004.

The analysis also pointed out that the number of educated elected MPs had gone up.

There were fewer under-matriculates, more post-graduates in the Lok Sabha now. The percentage of MPs without secondary education had decreased from 23 percent in 1952 to 3 percent in 2009.

The percentage of graduates had increased from 58 percent in 1952 to 79 percent in 2009.

More MPs now have post-graduate degrees than in 1952. The percentage of post-graduates has increased from 18 percent to 29 percent.

There has also been a noticeable shift in the age profile of MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The percentage of older MPs has increased significantly. In 1952, only 20 percent of MPs were 56 years or older. In 2009, this figure increased to 43 percent.

In the first Lok Sabha, there was no MP over the age of 70. This number has risen to seven percent in the current Lok Sabha.

The number of MPs below 40 years of age has decreased from 26 percent in 1952 to 14 percent in the current Lok Sabha.

Women MPs are younger than their male counterparts, according to PRS.

At the beginning of the 15th Lok Sabha, the average age of women MPs was 47 while the average age of male MPs was 54 years. There were no women MPs over 70 years of age then.

The number of women representatives has also gone up and they constitute 11 percent of the 15th Lok Sabha. In comparison, only five percent MPs in the first Lok Sabha were women.

Of the larger states in Lok Sabha, Madhya Pradesh has the highest percentage of women MPs (21 percent), followed by Uttar Pradesh (15 percent) and Gujarat (15 percent).

Though the percentage of women MPs has increased over the years, it is still lower in comparison to some countries. These include Sweden (45 percent), Argentina (37 percent), Britain (22 percent) and the US (17 percent).

The women`s reservation bill that proposes 33 percent of legislative seats be set aside for women, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010. The proposed legislation is currently pending in Lok Sabha but is being severely opposed by regional parties.