Agenda – Election reform: The Youth agenda for strengthening parliamentary democracy
Elections in India; a highly criticised mechanism, engages both, the young and the old, yet when it comes to constructive alternatives, there seems to be a lack of contribution. With there being abundant debate on matters such as campaign funding and corruption regarding Indian elections, allowing the decision makers of tomorrow; the youth of today, to take the podium and voice opinions regarding the various changes that can be brought about to make the process more efficient, the said agenda has been chosen. The Indian electoral system has transformed over the past seventy years since independence, gaining strength and maturity, yet has been criticised for multiple aspects, which require reform. The participation of future leaders in posing ideas and methods to make the electoral system; the backbone of any democracy, function to its optimum potential, with minimum scrutiny and chaos and maximum effectiveness, is rudimentary. The discussion on the said subject matter will help educate the youth about the details of the current system of elections followed in the world’s largest democracy, as well as expose them to various other devices that can be employed to improve the said process. As inehritors of the future, the youth of today is the greatest stakeholder in the success of India’s democracy, and would thus engage with the topic, discuss and deliberate, and amend the Representation of Peoples’ act in order to strengthen India’s parliamentary democracy.
The second session of I-Parliament was held from 30th of September to the 3rd of October at Jawahar Bhawan, New Delhi. There were 20 schools from across the country resulting in a total of 265 delegates that participated in 4 days of intensive debate & deliberation. Following the theme for the first day, the delegates were seen negotiating and lobbying for themselves and their parties even before formal proceedings began & kept going through out the political party meetings & coalition negotiations after which a government was formed by the Congress led UPA with the support of AIADMK, TMC & SP while the BJP led NDA formed the Opposition with the support of AAP, CPI(M) & TDP, The Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition & the Speaker were elected amongst the delegates & with their leadership both the coalitions met to elect their ministers & discuss their views on Article 356 & other issues.
From day 2 onwards the themes were centred upon making law & holding the government accountable to the people through the forms of constructive debate on article 356, a question hour & a zero hour on both day 2 & 3 in which topics such as reservations, gender equality, the Kashmir issue & development of sports in India were brought up by delegates. In the debates on Article 356 the delegates brought up various issues in their speeches and came up with solutions for these problems in the form of amendments. There were 3 amendments brought up by Medhansh Kumar, Tarijit Singh & Yuvraj Duggal respectively which were passed by the house, once these amendments were incorporated the bill was put up for vote and was passed unanimously.
At I-Parliament we try and ensure a learning experience for all those attending and this session was no different with the former Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram speaking to the delegates on the first day & a panel discussion on the third day in which the delegates were addressed by and interacted with Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Sanjay Jha, S.Y. Quraishi & Malvika Singh. Throughout these interactions the delegates asked questions covering a wide range of topics, which led to a hugely learning experience for all.
A unique introduction at this session of I-Parliament was the press segment which was sensationalin its first edition, the delegates were divided into 4 Media houses and produced 1 newspaper each on the last day as well as hosting a “free2speak” debate each. The delegates not only fulfilled their jobs as writers, reporters & editors but also performed as debaters & anchors, some of the delegates that stood out were Sanya Sidhu & Sanjay Nair while The Youth Daily was adjudged as the best newspaper for its effective reporting and well written pieces.
The press is a new and exciting segment that we have added to the second and forthcoming sessions of I-Parliament. It provides a platform for students interested in journalism to report on the happenings of the parliament house over the four days of I-Parliament.
There are 4 media houses; each media house has to come up with a name for themselves, elect an editor, interview MPs and write a full newspaper highlighting all the events that occurred in the parliament house.
There is also a segment in the press that encourages the media houses to make every participant speak about the debates that were held – called free2speak.
India is the world’s largest democracy. We believe that a continuous and concerted effort must be made amongst the youth in order to maintain the vibrancy that is characteristic of a mature and ideal democracy.
The I-Parliament team is introducing a series of clubs/societies in different schools across the country. Students will have the opportunity to come together and discuss matters that they deem fit within the framework of democratic and constitutional values.
In the future, these Democracy Clubs will elect students to represent them at I-Parliament.