Harpreet Bajwa

Punjab Assembly met 76 days in four years, was adjourned 14 times

At a time when Punjab is waiting for the Assembly election results, here's something to chew on for both the sitting and would-be legislators, and the masses who send them to the House to work out legislations for everybody's benefit.

In the last four years (till March 2011), only 10 sessions of the Punjab Assembly were held. The MLAs sat only on 76 days to conduct business in the House, which was adjourned 14 times. Broken down into base figures, our MLAs worked in the Assembly only for 19 days. Comparatively, Goa, held 12 sessions in 3.5 years and its MLAs sat in House for 95 days.

Here's some more for those who love to crunch numbers. In the 117-member Assembly, our MLAs asked 658 questions and passed 74 bills, where as the 40-member Goa House saw a whopping 8,796 questions being asked in three years and six months. It passed 77 bills.

The figures came to fore as the National Election Watch (NEW) released the data for the five states which went to or where Assembly polls are in progress. The NEW aims to disclose criminal, financial, educational and other information about candidates contesting elections in order to empower voters.

Incidentally, Assembly sessions and sittings in Punjab have been on a steady decline over the consecutive terms. During the 1997-2002 term, the Assembly met only 95 times — a decline of 21 per cent over the previous 1992-97 term. In 2002-07, the number of sittings came down to 81 — a decline of 15 per cent over the previous term. 

Call it a tendency to shirk work, or plain lethargy, the figures point out that the current crop of politicians have been less enthusiastic about calling and attending the House sessions compared to the old times. In between 1952 to 1957, when Congress' Bhim Sen Sachar was the chief minister, Assembly met 202 times — an average of 40 days per year.

A study by BS Dhillon of Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration (MGSIPA), shows that the number of sittings increased over the next two terms. The 1957 to 1962 Assembly spent 215 days in the house, averaging 43 sittings per year. The next Assembly, (1962-67) bettered the average with 253 sittings over five years — a little over 50 per year.

The years between 1967 to 1972 saw coalition governments come and go sending the House sittigs in a free fall. The trend reversed during 1972-77 before again going into a decline with the onset of the militancy era in the eighties.

However, there is a silver lining. The Assembly saw 71 per cent MLAs attending the sittings in last four years — second only to Uttarakhand (91 per cent). Here UP was the worst performer with only 23 per cent attendance.

Among the legislators in the 2007 Assembly, Shiromani Akali Dal's Virsa Singh (Valtoha constituency) and Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal (Qadian), and BJP's KD Bhandari (Jalandhar North) came out tops mising only two sittings and attending 74. They are followed by Charanjit Singh Channi, Independent candidate from Chamkaur Sahib and BJP's Sukhpal Singh Nannu (Firozepur) who attended 73 sittings.

The Assembly fare very poorly when compared to the Lok Sabha sittings. The current Lok Sabha, in the last two years and six months, sat for 208 days (averaging to nearly 77 days per year).

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