The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha is set to create a record with all the first-time members likely to raise their issues in the House before conclusion of its sitting later this month. It is among the initiatives of Speaker Om Birla, who is encouraging members to speak in the House and providing the opportunity.
In his own unique way, the new Speaker of the new Lok Sabha has been nudging the members to use the House time more effectively to boost productivity and increase their participation in the proceedings.
He has been providing opportunity to new members to express their views.
“Between June 19 and July 4, 130 of the 264 newly-elected members have spoken in the House. He (the Speaker) is making an effort that by the time session concludes, all the newly-elected members get an opportunity to speak. It will be a record,” said a Lok Sabha official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Birla already has a few records to his credit; in the first few days of working of Lok Sabha the House took up a record 10 questions last month. “Every day about eight to ten questions are being taken up. Earlier, a maximum of five or six questions could be taken up. Eighty-four members spoke during zero hour in a day, 49 of whom were new members,” the official said.
The Speaker has been urging the members to be brief and pointed in asking questions during question hour and ministers to be succinct in their answers so that maximum work is carried out.
He sits for long hours and has, on occasions, pushed the lunch hour to ensure that maximum number of members get an opportunity to speak. He has also asked members not to thank him when they raise their issues.
An official, who has been working in parliament since the eighties, said the new Speaker has been encouraging members who work hard, Revolutionary Socialist Party member NK Premachandran has been made a member of the panel of chairpersons.
“I think it is the first time that member of a party with a single MP in Lok Sabha is a member of a panel of chairpersons,” the official said.
Premachandran, in his remarks in the House, had thanked the Speaker and termed his decision “magnanimous”.
“I would like to place on record the magnanimous decision in nominating me in the panel of chairperson for which I express my sincere thanks,” he had said.
Birla praised Premachandran and noted that the decision to make him a member of the panel was widely welcomed. “You sit for long hours, know the procedures,” he said.
The official said the Speaker has run the house with “politeness as also firmness”.
He has urged members not to make allegations without proof and facts, pointed out if they are talking, asked them not to make unnecessary comments.
He has urged members to try and speak extempore during question hour while they can read from paper in matters raised under Rule 377.
Birla, who is into his second term as an MP, has been giving primacy to Hindi in conducting the proceedings of the House. In a step that was widely noticed, he started using words “han paksh” and “na paksh” during voting instead of customary “ayes” and “noes”.
The Speaker has also spoken a line or two about some of the new members. When Congress member Mohammad Sadique raised the issue concerning a road project in Punjab, the Speaker said the MP can also sing Sufi songs.
After Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary raised an issue concerning the menace of drugs, the Speaker noted that it was a matter of concern.
When BJP MP Horen Sing Bey raised an issue concerning Assam, the Speaker told the House that he had worked as a labourer in a tea garden. “Today he is an MP,” the Speaker said.
The Speaker attentively listens to the issues raised by members and gives his suggestions too. When the issue of water harvesting was raised by a BJP member, he suggested that it should be followed by all members.
When Aam Aadmi MP Bhagwant Mann sought to raise an issue which was different from what he had mentioned in his submission, the Speaker immediately pointed it out to him.
“I am an educated Speaker. Any member who wants to change topic can take permission. I will give it,” he said.
Some of Birla’s remarks have also led to light humour in the house.
When BJP member PP Chaudhary, who is a senior advocate, raised an issue concerning blood sugar, Birla quipped that the “lawyer had turned into a doctor”.
Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay remarked “it is dangerous when lawyer becomes a doctor”.
To this another Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee added: “Doctor is saved only by a lawyer.” Banerjee is also an advocate.