Research staff for MPs, a unique group
I found out about a unique group called “PRS Legislative Research“. This is an independent group dedicated to making parliamentarians better informed, therefore deepening the quality of debates in the process of law making. Website http://www.prsindia.org/
Among the things they do:
PRS produces easy to understand 4-6 pages long Legislative Briefs on a range of Bills. These Briefs are sent to all MPs in both houses of Parliament, about 1200 NGOs across the country, and the top 500 companies. We also email our Briefs to more than 600 people in the media.
PRS Legislative Research is incubated by the Centre for Policy Research.
I found out about this group via an article by its Director C.V.Madhukar that appeared in the Indian Express on Jan 3 , 2007. The article talks about the lack of debate and the “voice vote” culture. Even such monumental bills having deep social impact such as the OBC Quota bill were passed with almost no debate. Article source http://www.indianexpress.com/story/19938.html.
Being an effective Lok Sabha MP can mean very hard work. To make things more difficult, MPs do not have budgets available to hire good research staff. The Parliament library offers an important service by providing, at fairly short notice, clippings of recent newspaper articles to MPs on request. But it is left to the MP to sift through the many clippings and distil his or her arguments. What is even more worrisome is that the world’s largest democracy seems to expect MPs to decide on national policy based on newspaper reports.
A brilliant observation. The newspapers (read main stream media) influence over law making must be reduced. Debates must be conducted on the basis of available facts. Sometimes these facts are not easy to obtain or analyze. As Mr Madhukar says, all steps must be taken to increase budgetary support to each MP to hire research staff. If you have seen US political TV shows like “The West Wing” – you will know what I am talking about. We need our share of ambitious and young research assisstants too.
Most bills in Parliament are passed by a voice vote. So there is not even a record of whether a certain MP was present at the time of the passage of a bill. This seems to be an easy one to fix — the Parliament has the technology that allows MPs to push a button to vote on bills.
I am reading quite a bit these days. Very rarely do I come across an article that has me nodding in agreement throughout.
They are looking for public participation in their efforts. I will be emailing them shortly to see if there can be an exchange of ideas between the blogger community and this organization.
PRS is also making significant efforts to reach out to the citizen sector, the corporate sector and the Press
Good work guys.
If you have any comment about upcoming bills, you can post a comment on their website http://www.prsindia.org/bill_list.php
I think this is one of the very few ways the general public can communicate with law makers in India.