In what could a first of its kind, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, used a novel but informal way of enhancing the interest and participation of young lawmakers in the functioning of the Parliament. Over a sumptuous dinner at her sprawling bungalow at the Akbar Road, in the Lutyens Zone of the capital on Thursday night, she chatted with 34-40 MPs -- both men and women -- and their spouses. What was the selection criteria? Well they all should be under 40 years of age.
The first question was how many young MPs raised questions, during Zero Hour, Question Hour or through debates, about issues concerning the youths of the country?
The second question was about larger public good. She asked : did you use parliamentary rules and various provisions to raise issues of public interest? What she meant was the use of rules like 193 or 197 or the half hour discussion or calling attention motion etc. for raising issues related to public at large.
A more serious question that the Speaker asked was about Bills that are introduced in the Parliament to later become law. How many of you read the draft Bills, copy of which is sent to your residences, Mahajan, herself an eight-time MP ftom Indore, asked the younger lot. The 16th Lok Sabha has seen many first timers winning the elections and becoming MPs. Many of them are young.
A voracious reader herself, Mahajan then asked the MPs, if they visit the Parliament library, issue books or spend time to look for references in the rich library to enrich their knowledge while participating in various discussions and debates.
Her last question was about the Speakers' Research Initiative (SRI) which she started in July 2015. The SRI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to help MPs gain widespread exposure from domain experts on wide ranging subjects. Workshops have be organised under the SRI on education, agriculture, health, SDGs, parliamentary practices, powers of judiciary, legislature and executive and so on. In many of these events she has been present herself to listen to subject experts.
Sources said that cutting across party lines MPs such as Dushyant Chautala (INLD), Tarun Gogoi and Deependra Hooda (Congress), Dr Shrikant Eknath Shinde (SS), K Kavita (TRS), Rama Mohan Naidu (TDP), Varun Gandhi, Riti Pathak, Dr Heena Gavit, Savitri Phule (all BJP), among others, attended the dinner and got prizes from Mahajan for giving the cotrrct replies and showing great interest in the day to day Parliamentary functioning. One of the women MPs from Southern state said that though she did not win the coveted copy of the Constitution, she was happy to be part of the exercise.