QUESTION : Examine the significance of parliamentary debates in a representative democracy like India. Would you agree that the instruments like Question Hour of Indian Parliament help in bringing the accountability and transparency in decisions?
Topic- A POLITICS OF AVOIDANCE THAT MUST BE QUESTIONED
Question Hour And Its Significance
WHY IN NEWS ?
The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which has been truncated in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that Zero Hour will be restricted in both Houses.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Opposition MPs have criticised the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.
- The government has clarified that the Unstarred Questions will continue to be received and answered and that the change will relate only to Starred Questions and the Supplementary questions emanating from them that require to be answered orally.
QUESTION HOUR ?
- The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour where Members of Parliament raise questions about any aspect of administrative activity.
- In a starred question, a member seeks an oral answer from the concerned minister and this can be followed by supplementary questions, whereas in the case of unstarred questions, a written answer is provided, and no supplementary question can be asked.
- Short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.
- Ministries receive the questions 15 days in advance so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
- The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
- Question Hour is regulated according to parliamentary rules.
- Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made (Day of President’s address & During Budget presentation)
- With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.
SIGNIFICANCE OF QUESTION HOUR :
- Instrument of Accountability: During the Question hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
- Regularity: The daily ‘Question Hour’ has an unmatched criticality on account of its regularity and its availability on a basis of equality to every Member of the House, Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha.
- Broad Scope: It has a special significance in the proceedings of Parliament since it covers every aspect of government activity, domestic and foreign.
- Leads to Wider Debate: Though questions are pointed & specific, our parliamentary history records instances of answers given to questions leading to wider debates, inquiries, and even administrative scandals.
- Public Awareness: The information made available through Question Hour adds to public information essential to informed debates on matters of interest or concern.
- Stance of Executive: The advantage of Question Hour to the government is that its position in the matter is authoritatively explained
CRITICISM OF GOVERNMENT’S MOVE :
- Reduced Space for Opposition: The rest of the business of Houses was tightly controlled and set by the government, leaving only Question Hour to hold the government accountable.
- Against the Spirit of Democracy: Suspension of Question Hour is not good sign in democratic principles especially in a parliamentary democracy.
- Bad Precedence: Parliament is the beacon of legislative functioning and its functioning will set the precedent for Vidhan sabhas to follow in the future.
- Lacks Consensus: The move to suspend Question Hour due to pandemic and to find alternate options was not discussed with leaders of political parties and groups
ZERO HOUR :
- While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation which is not mentioned in the rules of procedure.
- Usually Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting. In 2014, Rajya Sabha Chairman shifted Question Hour in the House from 11 am to 12 noon. The move was to prevent the disruption of Question Hour.
ABOUT PARLIAMENTARY FORM OF GOVERNMENT :
- A parliamentary form of government in the one in which the executive is accountable to the electorate through a legislature which in turn is periodically elected by the electorate.
- This accountability lies at the heart of democratic government and is implemented through procedures put in place by the legislature whose functions include.
o Controlling the national finances
o Approving taxation proposals
o Having discussions on matters of public interest and concern
- Each of these functions is discharged, daily or periodically, during sittings of the legislature and cover questions, adjournment motion, calling attention, half-an-hour discussion, motion of no confidence, questions of privilege, etc
ISSUES RELATED TO THE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM :
Lack of Specialists in Cabinet: Parliamentary system limits executive posts to those who are elected rather than to those who are talented.
- Prevalence of Defections and Horse-trading: The Anti-defection Act of 1985 has not been very successful to cure the menace of defections.
- Suppression of Representative Democracy: Most laws are drafted by the executive and parliamentary input into their formulation and passage is minimal, with many bills being passed after barely a few minutes of debate.
- Politics of Disruption: In India’s Parliament, many opposition members feel that the best way to show the strength of their feelings is to disrupt law-making rather than debate the law.
- Focusing Politics rather than Policy
PRESIDENTIAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT :
The United States and many other democracies follow Presidential system of government. In this system, the President is both head of state and government. Unlike the Parliamentary system of government, there is clear separation between legislature and executive.
MERITS OF PRESIDENTIAL FORM :
- Stable executive: It establishes a stable executive which does not depend upon the fluctuating will of the legislature.
Presidential system is more stable than parliamentary as coalition governments in latter can collapse as seen in Indian experience.
- Better policy implementation: The tenure of the executive is fixed and, therefore, the policy is carried without any fear or favour. Further, a fixed tenure of office means a greater continuity of policies and programmes and higher standard of administration.
- Direct reflection of people’s choice: As the President is elected by the people, it is a direct choice rather than being elected by Member of Parliaments and Legislative assembly.
- Better administration: President can appoint anyone as secretaries (minister equivalent). In India minister has to be Member of Parliament.
- Stricter separation of powers: In Parliamentary system there is overlap in legislature and Executive, thus weakening the prospect of legislature holding executive accountable.
- Faster decisions: US President is more powerful, than India President domestically hence faster decision making is possible in the former
- People’s participation: Popular election of the chief executive is supported to stimulate citizens’ interests in public affairs and competition for one important office concentrates public attention on the issue of the day more effectively than the elections for legislative seats.
DEMERITS OF PRESIDENTIAL FORM :
- Autocratic: The presidential system appears to be autocratic because the President is empowered to act more or less in his discretion.
- Irresponsible: It is irresponsible because the executive is made independent of the legislature. There is no effective means by which the responsibility for the exercise of power may be ensured.
- Lack of co-operation: Another weakness of the system is its failure to ensure the co-operation between law-makers and administrators. Frequent conflicts between the legislature and the executive may lead to deadlocks.
- Lack of accountability: There is no continuous accountability of the executive to the representatives of the people in the legislature. The fixed term of office of the executive also curtails responsiveness to public opinion.
- Inelastic: The biggest demerit of this system is that it is inelastic structure and uncertain in fixing up the final responsibility. It is inelastic because, once the President has been elected, the nation must continue with him, no matter whether it likes or dislikes his policies.
- Deadlock on important issues: Frequent conflicts between the legislature and the executive may lead to deadlocks.
The test of a functioning democracy is its ability to face crises — social, economic, political — and seek correctives premised on institutions of democracy.
WAY FORWARD :
- World over, the legislative bodies have continued to function with new sets of ‘dos and don’ts. Some ‘dos and don’ts’’ can be introduced in the Parliament.
- Admit the Starred Question, reply to it in a set of prepositions and allow the Member concerned to table in writing the permitted number of follow up questions also to be answered in writing the following day.
o This can be supplemented, on occasions, by using a Motion to develop a consensus ‘on matters of general public interest’.
- Since the government is accountable to the parliament, the parliamentary proceedings meant to hold the government accountable should not be suspended or curtailed as it will go against the essence of the Constitution.
QUESTION : Explain the National Digital Health Mission by giving salient features with result to its digital mode and How it will be helpful as far as the accessibility is concerned? Discuss.
Topic -MIND THE GAP IN INDIA’S HEALTH CARE DIGITAL PUSH
National Digital Health Mission
WHY IN NEWS ?
Public consultations over the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), is envisioned as India’s first step towards Universal Health Coverage.
NATIONAL DIGITAL HEALTH MISSION :
- Its roots lie in a 2018 Niti Aayog proposal to create a centralised mechanism to uniquely identify every participating user in the National Health Stack.
- The National Digital Health Mission is a digital health ecosystem under which every Indian citizen will now have unique health IDs, digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
- An IT consulting firm has been engaged to build a National Health Stack and a registry of over eight lakh doctors, 10 lakh pharmacists and over 60,000 hospitals is under preparation.
- The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), which comes under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY), is expected to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health services in the country.
WHAT IS HEALTH ID?
- The health ID will contain information about medical data, prescriptions and diagnostic reports, and summaries of previous discharge from hospitals for ailments.
- Participation in NDHM is not compulsory.
- Each Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager — such as National Digital Health Mission — which will be used to seek the patient’s consent and allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.
- This ID is to be created by using a person’s basic details and mobile number or Aadhaar number.
- The ID will be applicable across states, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and pharmacies
BENEFITS OF NDHM :
- Ease of living: It ‘would help patients save the burden of carrying medical reports to a specialist or other hospitals’. One can also avail Telemedicine support from renowned specialists if required .
- Respects privacy: Only anonymised data will be shared upwards, and your consent will be taken every time for sharing any personal identifiable information.
- Homogenised software: The scheme also intends to replace existing data generation systems with a new homogenised software for all machines in the health sector in the country with a central processor that will extract the relevant data from individual records.
- There is insufficient time for discussions among medical practitioners, hospital managements, associations of various stakeholders in the health-care sector and other members of civil society for any meaningful feedback.
- Intra state difficulties:
o Most patients avail medical services from doctors or health-care centres in their own State.
o But when they seek advanced care in other States or migrate to another State they face difficulties because data is not available.
- Costs of software change:
o Public health professionals estimate the cost in thousands of crores for all government and private HIPs to upgrade their hardware and connectivity systems, training of present staff, the entry of data afresh apart from other indirect costs.
- In rural areas, there is no practice of even storing patient data on computers.
Data privacy: People easily give consent in normal times let alone in a time of medical emergency. It is quite difficult to secure the transferable data of many millions getting stored in the decentralised system
Misplaced priorities: Digitisation is not the immediate problem facing the health sector. The following issues deserve immediate attention:
- Unreliable health-care facilities in both the government and private sectors,
Did You Know about similar project by UK?
- In 2005, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) started deployment of an electronic health record systems with a goal to have all patients with a centralised electronic health record by 2010.
- While several hospitals acquired electronic patient records systems as part of this process, there was no national healthcare information exchange.
- The project had been beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and clashes with suppliers, which left it years behind schedule and way over cost.
- The program was ultimately dismantled after a cost to the UK taxpayer was more than £12 billion, and is considered one of the most expensive healthcare IT failures.
The article argues that the NDHM may not be the best way to go about addressing data gaps and suggests that instead, the existing practices and systems for the compilation of data as in the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and the Health Management Information System (IDSP-HMIS) could have been reformed for better efficiency and effectiveness.