A look at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s legislative performance over the last three parliamentary sessions explains why everyone seems to be up in arms against the breakdown of decision-making at the Centre.
The 2010 winter session was a complete washout as the UPA kept blocking the Opposition’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary probe of the 2G scam, eventually relenting just before the budget session began. Consequently, 31 non-financial bills went into the freezer. In the Monsoon session, the house passed only 11 of the 37 legislations planned. As a result, the legislative performance of this government in 2011 has sharply dipped in comparison to 2009 and 2010.
The UPA is facing flak from members of civil society as well as the business community. The civil society, which wants a tough anti-corruption law and social welfare legislations, accuses it of trying to ring-fence growth at the cost of development. Meanwhile, the business community is unhappy with the government’s inertia in moving on critical policy issues that affects investments.
But the situation may not be as bleak as it is made out to be. “I would like to draw a distinction between the government’s normal functioning and its success in piloting legislation,” says Chakshu Roy of PRS Legislative Research.
Roy says the day to day functioning of the government has not slowed down. There is a long list of draft bills in the public domain — a good pointer that the bureaucracy is working. Recently, the government has announced many policies in quick succession to counter the perception of a paralysis in decision-making. These include the new manufacturing policy, the public procurement policy and deregulation of interest rates on savings bank accounts, among others.
According to Jaipur-based think-tank CUTS International’s deputy executive director Bipul Chatterjee, the real worry is the lack of political will to clinch issues. “There is a general lack of co-ordination and leadership,” says Chatterjee. “Given the current scenario, I don’t expect much from the winter session.”