Friday, 12 December 2008

Parliamentary behaviour

I don't know how many people watched the debate in India's Parliament yesterday on the Mumbai attacks, but it was worth it. I had woken up at an ungodly hour, so was able to catch much of the debate while sitting in London. It was a remarkable example of sobriety, solemnity and political unity. The treasury and opposition benches disagreed at times, as must happen in a democracy. But the way they conducted themselves, one might have been mistaken in thinking that the protests out in the streets these days are against politicians in some other land.

The Mumbai attacks threw a challenge to all of us (more on that in a forthcoming post). We have lots to complain about but we also have to behave in ways that the terrorists cannot - civilised. As the editorial in the Indian Express noted, 'On this sombre occassion, Parliament gave us a demonstration of public reason in action.'

In the course of my work and research, I have to consult parliamentary debate records and am sometimes surprised to find high standards of debate on key substantive issues. We mostly think of Parliament as a wrestling pit. True, MPs need to change their behaviour but we need to engage in and push for more informed discourse as well.

2 comments:

Prakash Kamath said...

I too heard the debate and as you pointed out it was marked by 'sobriety' from both sides of the bench.

While the Home Minister Shivraj Patil at the Centre and Vilasrao Deshmukh and R.R. Patil have resigned accepting responsibility for the Mumbai attacks what hit me was that NOBODY wanted to seek "ACCOUNTABILITY" on the gross misuse of Funds allocated for 'counter terrorism' used to buy 600 odd luxury cars and have 15% of all police forces across the nation kept solely as 'Security' for all politicians irrespective of whether they were sitting MP's or MLA's.

They now want MORE money to set up a 'federal' investigative agency to counter terrorism so that more 'funds' can be siphoned away. The Mumbai attacks has only created a new reason to make money for those in POWER.

Arunabha said...

Thanks for your comment. You've touched upon the key problem. I agree that the next step is to put pressure for more accountability. But accountability not just for how funds are used/misused but also for whether the state delivers justice for current and past victims of terror, wherever they may be and whatever their denominations.