DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
GOVERNMENT BRENNEN COLLEGE,THALASSERY
Institute of Parliamentary Affairs
(Seminar Proposal 2010-11)
SECTION - A
A. Title of the activity:
“Democracy ,Parliamentary Processes and the Policy Initiatives in India”.
B. Background including details of past events organised on the proposed topic:
The paradox of our times is that we hail the victory of democracy while lamenting the fact that in many sense parliament - the central institution of democracy - is facing a crisis of legitimacy. The executive branch dominates the agenda, international cooperation and globalisation have led to decision making that lacks democratic control, and people question whether current political processes are really able to produce parliaments that can represent their interests in all their diversity.
Public policies have been defined as guidelines for public action, prescribing in general terms the means for moving toward a desired course of events or outcome. In a democratic state, public policy-making is perceived as the function of the elected representatives who determine certain objectives in the best interests of the people. However, with the complexity of big governments of modern times, there are many points in the articulative stage of the political process, where elected officials lose control of their initially announced objectives. A policy seen as a statement of objectives, embedded in a law passed by a legislature, is usually the result of many compromises. "Policy is the output resulting from the interactions of governmental and non-governmental individuals and groups.
This seminar proposal is concerned with an analysis of the role of Indian parliament in policy processes , the attributes of policy problems,the institutional capacity of parliament to act; and external circumstances, including the chief executive and the constitutional system, which affect both the extent and the means of parliamentary activity in setting government policy. In evaluating this role and in determining whether the parliament in India has emerged as an "influencing" or "transformative" or an "arena" agency, the proposal is concerned to an analysis of some of the broad policy areas, viz. "Foreign and Defence", "Science and Technology" " Economic Policy Issues" and ”Social Justice”.In addition, the impact of certain parliamentary procedures, such as the private members' bills and the work of the parliamentary consultative committees, are examined. It is expected that a survey of the parliament's involvement in these selected areas will furnish us with ample material to discuss the kind of role that the parliament in India plays in formulating and controlling public policies. They should be representative, transparent, accessible, accountable and effective.
The foregoing analysis of the Indian parliament's involvement in specific policy areas also indicates the specific role of the Indian parliament in the various stages of policy development. So far as the gestation stage for policy is concerned, it is evident that the parliament as a whole has no discernible role in the preparation of policy-action proposals. Even when some of the plans formulated by specific administrative institutions come up for discussion in parliament, it is the "specialist" or the administrative staff who have the upper hand in defining potential future problems rather than the members of the legislature.
In the successive stages of policy formulation, however, the consensus on various policy issues is first achieved by the political parties in their own forums and are then vetted by the various cabinet committees assisted by the senior civil servants.It is in the third stage that members in their individual capacity can and do make significant contributions to the ultimate policy outcomes. However, the impact of such deliberations at times is only marginal depending upon the ruling party's strength, position of other parties and the attitude of the leader of the House. While Indian parliament has demonstrated its capacity to modify the policy proposals initiated by the executive, its role in this respect has been more or less moderate rather than "strong" or "weak".
What is striking is the sense of the common challenges facing parliaments. These include the changing relationships that parliament maintains with the public, the media, the executive branch and the international organizations. Similarly, the representation of all parts of society, men and women, minorities and marginalized groups is also evolving. Effective representation implies articulating and mediating between the competing interests of these groups and guaranteeing equal rights for all parliamentarians, particularly those belonging to the opposition.
In the Indian parliamentary form of government, the function of the legislative body is primarily to legislate, advise, criticize and ventilate public grievances. The executive, for the most part, proposes the legislation and policies necessary for the implementation of societal objectivies, and the parliament gives it its imprimatur, after due deliberation and debate, often suggesting modifications. Public policy is the outcome of the interaction of several political processes, such as objectives being set by the political party in power, concrete shape given to these by the cabinet with the aid and advice of the experts, and final approval given by the legislature. The legislature serves as a clearing house on all major questions of policy and may by itself act as a check on minor policy issues.
The conclusion that one can draw about the Indian parliament's capacity to influence public policy and hold the executive accountable in this respect is that given the environmental constraints, parliament's competence to make or initiate policy measures is extremely limited irrespective of the nature of policy areas. While the capacity of the Indian parliament to influence defence, foreign and scientific policies is very little indeed, it has had only a marginal impact in the other areas of public policy as well, for example, in most socio-economic or domestic affairs. While the Indian parliament has shown its capacity and willingness to modify various policy proposals coming before it for discussion and approval, it has a latent capacity to reject outright a policy proposal. Further it seems that the parliament in India has been most vigourous in enforcing executive's accountability to itself, despite the aberrations of an emergency (1975-77) and the continued existence of one party dominance rule in the legislature. It is possible, however, that through a further refinement of the existing parliament procedures, particularly through creation of a stronger committee system and with the emergence of a cleaner and healthier party politics, the capacity of the parliament to enforce the accountability of the executive in various stages of policy development will greatly increase.
C. Aims / Objectives/Statement of Proposal (in at least 500 words):
There are various occasions in the legislative process when parliament is concerned with policy matters. Political parties, especially the majority party, provides the basic framework of government's policies. Through its utterances at various party sessions and manifestos, the party makes its policy objectives known to the people, and the mandate that a party receives from the people at the polls is perceived as an endorsement of such policy perspectives. It is these policy objectives that the cabinet seeks to pursue through the legitimacy of parliamentary approval. Government thus takes decisions on the basis of what "the party decides first".' Within the legislature, the parliament's control over policy matters starts from the debate on the president's address, which generally outlines the policy proposals of the government of the day before the members of the legislature. Subsequently, through the use of question hour, debate over proposed legislation, resolutions, motions, budgeting procedures, and the various standing and permanent committees, parliament can and does exercise influence over the policy activities of the government. Further, through the power of finance, power to levy or modify taxes, voting of supplies and grants, and through discussions in the House and its various committees, parliament enforces the responsibility of the executive to itself and ultimately to the people. However, because of India's enormous size and the complexity of issues facing it, decisions cannot be made by the executive alone. This has perhaps been the reason behind the frequent assertion by the Indian parliament of its share of power in the process of legislation.
The environmental factors in India appear to have a more pervasive role in determining parliament's involvement in policy-making. The hypothesis that the policy activities of legislatures is greater in presidential than in parliamentary systems is very well proved by the Indian experience. Similarly the premise that the policy activities of legislatures is greater if the executive branch is more open than closed is also substantiated by the Indian situation. However, the statement that the policy activity of the legislatures increases as the number of administrative agencies grows, is not supported in the Indian context. Although the years witnessed a tremendous growth in the number of administrative agencies in India, this growth has not materially altered the nature of parliament's impact on policy processes. While, in pure quantitative terms, parliament today may be considering a larger number of policy issues than ever before, the impact of this activity remains weak. In respect of the impact of environmental factors on policy development , it requires a more detailed and in-depth analysis in order to be tested.
The approach here is distinct from previous enquiries in that it investigates issues and analyses the impact of parliamentary involvement in these areas in order to arrive at some tentative conclusions regarding parliamentary control over public policies in India.
D. Target audience/ participants with expected number:
It is planned to invite renowned scholars from Central Universties, IIT’s, IIM’s, Deemed Universities,Professional Institutions,Government representatives and bureaucracy,media,social activist groups and professionals abroad.The academicians in Kerala and all over India can participate in the programme. The seminar is useful for scholars interested in activities which aims to strengthen parliamentary democracy and practicers in India.Teachers from all over India can participate in the programme.Students who are interested in the parliamentary practices can also attend the programme.
We expect 200 participants
E. Details of Sessions:
Please mention themes/ topics to be covered under each Business/
Technical Session and names of Resource Persons:
- The role of Indian parliament in policy processes ,
- Changing relationships that parliament maintains with the public,
- Parliament and the media,
- Parliament and the executive branch,
- Social change and Parliament
- Parliament and New Media including social media.
- Democracy through parliament
- Parliament and representation of all parts of society, men and women, minorities and marginalized groups.
F. Expected outcome:
The seminar will be of immense help for professionals as well as people interested in the Parliamentary politics.The topic is of colossal importance and found to be of vehement in academic pursuit.The seminar will be useful for policy makers to redefine priorities. What is the parliamentary contribution to democracy? What makes a parliament or legislature itself democratic? How might it become more so? These are the questions which this seminar addresses. Activist groups will get enough resource for their future action and priorities from the seminar.More over the seminar will be highly useful for students and teachers to improve their knowledge domain.
Prepared by Biju P R,assistant Professor in Political Science,Govt Brennen College,Thalassery
 Robert Simmons ef al, "Policy Flow Analysis A Conceptual Model 1or Comparative Public Policy Resources , The Western Political Quarterly (December 1972) 465