Monday, March 7, 2016

Some thoughts on Parliament coverage

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference. 

Narendra Modi’s speeches in Parliament come in a loaded package – content related to various facets of governance, statistics, ideas, wit & humour. His recent reply to the debate in Lok Sabha is no different. Whilst the English media stuck to his comments on the Congress party, other significant points of his speech were conveniently left out.

He suggested that for one week in a session per year, only the first time members should speak and debate. The agenda of the Parliament will not be altered, but we will just have the first time members speak. In any field, ‘freshers’ bring with them, well, freshness! Freshness of thoughts, ideas, and action plans – all of these help in evolving a better system.  Thar is exactly what the Prime Minister was referring to – let’s listen to fresh ideas, and not embroil in the same old “tu-tu, main-main” slanging matches. This is a superb idea, and I really hope this translates into reality and we get to hear the new members.

Another crucial point that the Prime Minister made - an appeal to let the Parliament function – because ultimately the nation loses when the parliament does not function. Most of the work gets stopped in Rajya Sabha because of the likes of Sitaram Yechury. Rahul Gandhi’s party too, plays a very important role in obstructing the progress of the country, in the Rajya Sabha. Infact, this Lok Sabha has a very impressive working record. During the last session, this graphic was doing rounds on the social media.

The political messaging of this graphic aside, have a look at the numbers for the Lok Sabha! Astounding productivity. However, it is a real pity that we don’t get to hear or read more details on the kind of legislation that has transpired in the Lok Sabha, in our main stream media.

For example, did you know what the Modi government is bringing in a law to repeal more than a thousand  old and outdated laws? Did you know that they have already repealed more than 200 such laws? Did you know that 758 such laws have been repealed by the Lok Sabha and are pending in the Rajya Sabha? Haven’t you heard of politicians and journalists asking why we need old laws? But have you heard the same journalists asking why such a simple legislation is being held to ransom by the opposition?

Another example, the PM has told us that even the National Waterways bill is pending. What possible politics could want you to stop this bill? The list of pending bills is long, and the variety of topics these bills cover is a fascinating read. The only website, outside of government websites, that gives us these details is PRS. And it does a phenomenal job at it.

A few years back, I was often questioning the main stream media journalists on twitter, as to why they don’t cover any news when Parliament functions. They are out by the dozen when it came to criticizing the BJP for obstructing Parliament (Note how they don’t blame the Congress now, but that’s not what we want to focus). I wrote an e-mail to a prominent editor-in-chief then, suggesting the following:

I know Parliament these days isn't functioning much. But on days that it functions, there is sparse coverage in the media. For example - Question Hour. There are days when Question Hour happens without any interruptions. On such days, I suggest that you scroll on your channel, the question being asked and the questioner (just like LS TV does it). You can also do the same for topics raised in Zero Hour. And in your prime time bulletins, you can maybe devote a minute quickly reading all the topics that were discussed in Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha on that particular day.”

The response was: “there is a thought here. However, LS TV is best equipped in this regard, We will aim to focus on important issues in parliament.” I am yet to see a 30 minute show on English Language TV channel that discusses the various legislations being debated or passed by the Lok Sabha. Actual important issues in parliament need to be discussed threadbare, and maybe it is time for Social Media to take the lead here too. Perhaps, we can bring in a whiff of fresh air to these debates!