A major drawback of the present system of Parliamentary democracy in India relates to the quality of our elected representatives. There is a feeling that the calibre of our elected representatives is such that they are not capable of providing leadership to a country which is fast modernising and forging ahead in an international playing field, dominated by science and technology and changes in every field of human endeavour. There is thus a strongly perceived need for induction of a greater number of professionals and educated men and women in Parliament.
In the present situation, there is no justification in putting all the blame on the elected representatives. Whatever be their suitability, as leaders they are there in Parliament as a result of democratically contested elections; they are there as representatives of the people. We have no right to put the blame on them.
Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to put the blame on those who are more capable and could have provided better leadership to the country if they had contested elections, but did not. But having said that, it has to be admitted that it is going to be a difficult task attracting professionals into the political arena.
Today, ways by which non-seasoned politicians, but eminent personalities, may be attracted to Parliament are limited. This is possible through their nomination as members of the Rajya Sabha. This is a noteworthy provision that exists in our constitution, but its scope is limited as the number of such nominated members is limited. There is no moral justification in suggesting that the number of such nominated representatives be increased, as they do not command the legitimacy of being the elected representatives of the people.
There is, however, a suggestion that could be considered for implementation in India. We could have members elected by professional bodies as representatives in Parliament. Thus we could have representatives from among scientists, engineers, academics, doctors, nurses, factory workers, management experts, chartered accountants, students, sportspersons, journalists, artists, civil servants and so on. A ground requirement has to be that the representatives of a particular body must be members of that body and not any outside politician, as has been seen in some of our trade unions and sports bodies.
In the case of a certain category of professionals who constitute large numbers in society, there is a scope for having more than one representative in Parliament. It is possible, for instance, to divide the country into four or five zones, each zone providing a representative of a particular type of professional to Parliament.
For other types of professionals whose number in society is limited it would be possible to have only one representative at the national level. Many other categories which are not well-defined or well-organized or too thin in terms of numbers may have to go unrepresented.
The scheme being proposed has to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha through an appropriate Constitutional Amendment, while the scheme for elections to Lok Sabha would remain unaltered as at present.
At present it is only the elected members of the Lok Sabha and State legislators who are eligible to elect representatives to Rajya Sabha. The proposed scheme would in effect mean extending their eligibility to various eminent professional bodies in the country that are well-organized, have a suitable and clear-cut criterion of membership, and whose eligibility is determined by the President of India with the aid of a special cell in the Parliament Secretariat. The eligibility of any professional body would not be permanent, but subject to constant review by the concerned authority.
The scheme could preferably be implemented by not increasing the membership of the Rajya Sabha, but by reducing the number of representatives elected by the traditional method.
For this to happen, the professional bodies seeking representation in Parliament would first have to get themselves organized. They should also prescribe a suitable criterion for membership in their profession. Once the professional body is organized, they could send the proposal to the President of India to determine their eligibility for sending representatives to Parliament. Suitable criteria will have to be laid down to determine eligibility and the final say in the matter would rest with the President, who will also be permitted to use his discretionary powers.
Any individual should not be permitted to be a member of more than one such professional body. If, according to eligibility, he or she can qualify for membership in more than one professional body he will have to decide for himself which body he will represent as far as elections to Parliament is concerned. Each professional body will send representatives to Parliament as a result of elections in which all members will participate.
The majority of the population will go unrepresented under this scheme if we do not include organised bodies of farmers, agricultural workers, slum dwellers, small shopkeepers, etc. But organising professional or institutional bodies among all such groups will be a cumbersome process and difficult to implement.
One way to work around this problem would be to give indirect representation to the village community by organising a professional body of panchayat representatives. Similarly, elected representatives of urban municipal bodies could organise another professional body of their own. These two bodies -- comprised of panchayat institutions and municipal bodies -- should be seen as representatives of all members of society who are otherwise left out in the scheme. 10 seats in Rajya Sabha could preferably be left reserved for representatives of each of these.
The basic objective of such a proposal would be to bring about professional dynamism in our parliamentary system. It is important that the elected representatives of the present day do not see this as a threat to their interests but merely as a way to impart a new kind of professionalism to our parliamentary democracy. If the constitutional amendment to implement such a scheme can be brought about during the term of the next Lok Sabha so that the scheme itself may be implemented in the subsequent one, India could well turn out to be a pioneer among nations in introducing such a scheme and hence, a torchbearer for democracy all over the world.