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A Look At How Delhi’s Legislative Assembly Fared In The Last 5 Years

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In the parliamentary democracy of India, the citizens of the country elect their parliamentarians and legislators for Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The parliamentarians and legislators then choose a council of ministers amongst themselves to head the executive branch of the government. But in popular discourse, only the work of the executive, headed by Prime Minister at the centre and Chief Minister in states, is discussed. The work of another pillar of the government, legislature, is often overlooked and remains unevaluated.

This is a matter of grave concern as the people of the country directly elect a legislative assembly (and Lok Sabha), thus making legislators (and Lok Sabha members) personally answerable to the citizens. The parliamentary form of government followed in India is very different from the presidential form of government followed in countries like the US. There, the head of the government (viz. President) is directly elected by the people. Thus, in the Indian scenario, it is a grave oversight to not evaluate the performance of the Legislature and directly elected representatives.

In this context, the article intends to analyze the performance of the 6th legislative assembly of Delhi, which functioned between 2015 and 2020. A lot of analysis has been done on the performance of the Delhi government during the last five years, but those have largely focussed on the performance of the executive branch of the Delhi government. But,

Does The Performance Of Delhi’s Legislative Branch Pass The Test?

A recent report by Association for Democratic Reforms gives a glimpse of the performance of the Delhi legislative assembly in the last five years. The assembly, which was constituted in February 2015, has 70 seats. In 2015, out of the 70 seats, 67 were won by Aam Aadmi Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party won three. In its five years of functioning, the assembly sat for nearly 20 days per year, with a high percentage of attendance of 76% by its legislators.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Compare this to the 13th Haryana legislative assembly, a neighbouring state assembly, whose tenure was nearly co-terminus with Delhi. Here, the assembly sat for only 15 days per year. It is not only a difference of five days on an annual basis, but a representation of the effectiveness of elected representatives to raise the voices and opinions of the people.

Another fact to be noted is that Delhi functions as a quasi-state, where the functions of land, police and public order fall within the purview of the union government, unlike states like Haryana, where these functions lie with respective state governments. Even with lesser functional areas, the Delhi legislative assembly sat for more days and has considerably outperformed other states.

An efficacious tool for raising concerns of the public is the mechanism of asking questions in the assembly. The legislators ask questions to the ministers and bring voices of the public to the notice of the house. This also helps in keeping a check on the executive. In the last Delhi assembly, on an average, an MLA asked 215 questions. This is a staggering feat if one looks at the numbers of questions asked by MLAs in other state assemblies.

An MLA in Haryana assembly asked only 20 questions (average), and 16 MLAs did not ask even a single question during their tenure of five years. Consider the plight of people who were represented by these 16 MLAs; their voices were not even heard once on the house of the floor in five years. Delhi Assembly has indeed performed exceptionally well, but it also reflects a sad state of affairs in other state assemblies.

Another function of the assembly is to enact the laws, after due discussions and deliberations over it. The last Delhi legislative assembly passed 100% of the bills which were tabled, and nearly 50% of the bills took more than a day to pass. This is representative of extensive discussions and deliberations on the contours of the introduced bill, which, in turn, makes it more effective and people-centric. A hastily passed bill leaves little room for any critical evaluation.

A closer look at the financial and age profile of elected representatives will help us understand the reasons for the better performance of one legislative assembly over others. In this regard, a comparative analysis of 6th Delhi Legislative assembly, 13th Haryana legislative assembly and 16th Lok Sabha, all of which were formed after respective elections in 2014 or early 2015, is undertaken.

The average assets of an MLA of Delhi are 6.3 crores, which saw a steep decline from the average assets of 10.83 crores of MLAs elected in 2013 assembly elections. In contrast, the average assets of an MLA for 2014 Haryana assembly were 12.97 crores, while for 2014 Lok Sabha MPs it stood at 14.70 crores.

Moreover, the age profile of Delhi’s MLA indicates that it is a young and dynamic assembly, with 40% of them being under the age of 40. While 13th Haryana legislative assembly had only 10% of MLAs who were under 40, and 16th Lok Sabha had 13% of MPs under this age-group. The young elected representatives are crucial in the governance system, for not only bringing voices of youth but also for introducing cutting-edge innovations that improve the lives of people.

Legislatures, for long, have been regarded as the foundation of Indian democracy. Right from the time of setting up of a constituent assembly, which drafted the constitution of India, till today’s era of disruptions, adjournments, and personal attacks during sessions, Indian legislatures have seen a dismal downward trend. To evolve into a new-age and effective democracy, it is important for the people of this country to evaluate and examine the performance of its legislatures critically.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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