Official data reveals that it’s not just the promises made to citizens, Governments often fail to implement assurances made in the Parliament as well. More than 30% of the assurances made during the previous or the 16th Lok Sabha are still pending while this number stands at 7% for the 15th Lok Sabha.
One of the common complaints with political parties is about their broken promises. Citizens vote in anticipation of those promises being implemented, but realize that some of these promises are never kept. If you felt that citizens are the only victims, think again. Data available on the Parliament website reveals that 7% of the assurances made by ministers on the floor of the house, during the 15th Lok Sabha(2009-2014) are still pending. In the case of the previous or the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019), this number stands at 32.9%. On the other hand, about 27.4% of the assurances made by the previous government in the Rajya Sabha are still pending.
(Note: Data used for this analysis is taken from the websites of the Lok Sabha & the Rajya Sabha as on 26th June 2019)
What are Assurances?
While responding to questions in the House or during discussions on Bills, Resolutions, Motions etc., the Ministers on several occasions give assurances, undertakings or promises to consider a matter, take action or furnish information later. These are termed as assurances as per parliamentary procedure. Some of the following are examples of assurances made to the house.
- The matter is under consideration
- I shall look into it
- Enquiries are being made
- I shall inform the Hon’ble Member
- This is primarily the concern of State Government but I shall look into it
- I shall write to the State Governments
- I assure the House all suggestions by Hon’ble Member will be carefully considered
- I shall study the conditions on the spot during my tour
- I shall consider the matter
- I will consider it
- I will suggest to State Governments
- We will put the matter in the shape of a resolution
- I shall see what can be done about it
- I will look into the matter before I can say anything
- The suggestion will be taken into consideration
Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances & the Process
In order to ensure that these assurances are implemented in a reasonable timeframe, the Lok Sabha & the Rajya Sabha have constituted a Committee on Government Assurances. These committees are established to institutionalize the procedure for dealing with these assurances. The broad process followed is described below.
- The Lok Sabha Secretariat examines the Lok Sabha debates to mark the replies/statements of the Ministers which constitute assurances. Similar process is followed in the Rajya Sabha.
- This data is reconciled with the assurances culled out by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. Once they are finalized, the relevant Ministries/Departments are apprised of these assurances.
- The parliamentary committee on Government Assurances has prescribed an outer limit of three months for the implementation of an assurance, to be calculated from the date of its being given in the House. However, if the Government foresees any genuine difficulty in implementing the assurance within the stipulated period, the Ministry may request for extension of time for the fulfillment of this assurance. In normal course, the committee accedes to such requests for extension unless it finds the request unreasonable.
- If the Government finds that the assurance is not feasible to implement, then it approaches the committee to drop the assurance with all relevant facts for the consideration of the committee. If the Committee concurs with the government, then it recommends dropping of the assurance in its reports to the house.
Status of Assurances made during the previous three Lok Sabhas (UPA & NDA-1)
The data for the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09), or the UPA-1 is not completely available. The available data shows that 23% of the assurances made during the 14th Lok Sabha are still pending. Out of the 161 assurances for which the data is available, 37 are pending while 86 are fully implemented. Twenty three (23) assurances have been dropped.
In the case of the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) or UPA-2, around 7% of the assurances made are still pending. Out of the total 5813 assurances made, 5053 are fully implemented, 294 are dropped and 408 are still pending. More than 50% of the assurances are pending in two (2) different ministries, i.e., Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Ministry of Skill Development.
What about the Previous Lok Sabha?
In the case of the previous or the 16th Lok Sabha, which was the first term of Modi led BJP government, 32.9% of the assurances are still pending. While the assurances made during the last few sessions may take time for fulfillment, it is surprising to note that at least 30% of the assurances made during each of the sessions from July 2016 are still pending. Out of the 5335 assurances made so far, 3447 are fully implemented, 91 are dropped and 1754 are still pending.
What is Department wise status in the Previous (16th) Lok Sabha?
In the 16th Lok Sabha, at least 50% of the assurances made are pending in five (5) different ministries. More than 60% assurances are pending in only the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Less than 20% of the assurances are pending in only 12 of the 58 ministries. More than 100 assurances each were made by 18 different ministries while 12 ministries made less than 30 assurances each.
The lone assurance given by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the current Lok Sabha was dropped by the committee in June 2016. The assurance was dropped since the PMO responded to the committee saying such mechanism was being discontinued.
Incidentally, in the 15th Lok Sabha also, there was one assurance from the PMO that was dropped.
What about Rajya Sabha?
About 6% of all the assurances given till date (since the 1990s) are pending the Rajya Sabha. Out of the 17403 assurances made so far, 15176 are fully implemented, 1181 are dropped and 1046 are pending.
Though Rajya Sabha is a permanent house, the percentage of pending assurances given during various governments reveals an interesting trend. The percentage of assurances pending (of those assurances made during respective governments) in the Rajya Sabha is less than the pendency in Lok Sabha for each of the last three governments.
What does this mean?
There seems to be an inordinate delay in the implementation of the assurances made on the floor of the house. It is concerning to note that assurances dating back to more than 5 years are still pending. For instance, a question was asked in February 2014, during the UPA-2, about the details of cases booked against sarpanches across the country. More than 5 years later, the data is still not supplied by the government.
In another case for example, a question was asked in July 2014, in the initial months of BJP government, about the number of Indian citizens staying/employed in foreign/Gulf countries, number of Indian workers arrested allegedly on charges of violating visa norms, details of deportation of such persons etc. Almost 5 years on, the government has not provided the data.
The very essence of questions in the parliament will be lost if the answers are not provided by the government.