The Lok Sabha, India's Lower House of Parliament, is experiencing an ageing trend despite the rising youth population, leading to implications for governance and representation in the world's largest democracy.
About Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of people chosen by direct election on the basis of Universal Adult Suffrage.
The Constitution of India allows for a maximum of 550 members in the House, with 530 members representing the States and 20 representing the Union Territories.
At present, the Lok Sabha has 543 seats filled by elected representatives.
The term of the Lok Sabha, unless dissolved, is five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
However, while a proclamation of emergency is in operation, this period may be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not extending in any case, beyond a period of six months after the proclamation has ceased to operate
What’s ‘trending’ in Lok Sabha?
Dwindling Youth Representation
In a country where around 66% of the population is below 35 years of age, the declining number of young parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha is a matter of concern.
The trend is starkly evident when comparing the First Lok Sabha's 82 young MPs to the current 17th Lok Sabha's mere 21.
This decline comes despite an increase in the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha from 499 to 545 over the years.
Impact on Average Age and Representation
As young MPs dwindle, the average age of Lok Sabha members has steadily risen from 46.5 years in the First Lok Sabha (1952-57) to 55 years in the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2023).
While experience and wisdom are invaluable, an ageing Parliament might find it challenging to resonate with the aspirations and concerns of India's youthful population.
It raises questions about whether the institution remains in touch with the evolving needs and aspirations of the nation's youth.
Gender Disparity Persists
The demographic transition is not the only challenge. Gender disparity in the Lok Sabha remains a persistent issue.
Despite a rising number of women candidates and voters, the representation of women in the Lok Sabha remains low.
The highest-ever count of 78 women MPs in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections still accounts for only 14.36% of the total members, far from the envisioned 33% representation as proposed in the women's reservation Bill.
The lack of gender diversity affects the quality of debate and decision-making, impacting the inclusive character of India's democracy.
No Deputy Speaker in the 17th Lok Sabha
Another unique aspect of the 17th Lok Sabha is the absence of a Deputy Speaker.
This is the first time in Independent India's history that the Lok Sabha has not had a Deputy Speaker.
The role of the Deputy Speaker is crucial for the smooth functioning of Parliament, and its absence raises questions about the efficacy of parliamentary proceedings.
Changing Dynamics of Parliamentary Sittings
The number of Lok Sabha sittings has also witnessed fluctuations over the years.
In 1956, the Lok Sabha held a record 151 sittings, but since 1974, it has not surpassed the 100-day threshold in a year.
The Covid-19 pandemic further reduced the sittings to a mere 33 days in 2020. This change in dynamics might have implications for the legislative output and effectiveness of Parliament.
In conclusion, India's Lok Sabha is undergoing significant demographic and structural changes. While experience and wisdom are valuable, the need for youth and gender diversity in Parliament is essential for fostering a dynamic and inclusive democracy. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure that India's Parliament remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of its diverse population.