Parliamentary panels must conduct adequate research with inputs from experts before making public their reports
All parliamentary committees function as mini-parliaments, rising above partisan interests, and staying clear of the interests of certain lobbyists and interest groups. Issues are discussed in the thematic committees, keeping in mind the national interest and the people. The thematic committees are created in a democratic system to see to it that all lawmakers are engaged in one or the other subjects so that they make remarkable contribution while making or amending the laws to address the emerging challenges in society. Apart from making laws, the lawmakers also carry out investigation on issues of public importance. Although they are not legally binding to the government, whatever reports the parliamentary panels come out with after the probe oblige the government to take the necessary steps to make corrections based on the reports. However, most of the reports prepared by the thematic committees seem to be lackadaisical, superficial and lacking substance.
A recent report prepared by a seven-member sub-panel of the parliamentary Education and Health Committee is a case in point. The sub-panel was headed by none other than a former health minister, with two other former health ministers serving as members. In its month-long study, the sub-panel made a sweeping statement that leading hospitals failed to meet the “government-set standards and criteria”. However, in the seven-page long report, the sub-panel failed to elaborate how the hospitals have failed to meet the set criteria. What is interesting to note is that the sub-panel only made on-the-site inspection of 10 public hospitals and three health-related government departments. It simply made a general statement that the hospitals they visited lacked “human resources, proper infrastructure and equipment”. The report is silent about the facilities offered in the private hospitals in the Valley, as the panel did not visit them while preparing the report.
What is surprising is that the full committee endorsed the sub-panel’s report as it is. Committee chairperson Jay Puri Gharti defended the unsubstantiated report, saying the sub-panel was given “very little time to prepare the report”. How can it be called a short period when it had spent 36 days in preparing the report? To issue a 17-point directive to the government for improving the overall condition of the hospitals without proper research is an irresponsible act on the part of the lawmakers and the full panel. This proves that the lawmakers’ work was not in line with the parliamentary spirit. Such acts will only lead to loss of credibility of the lawmakers and tarnish the reputation of the parliamentary panel(s). The sub-panel could have taken more time to make its report more credible and respectable. Each and every report to be prepared by a parliamentary panel should be based on facts and evidence, with inputs from experts. This is also a case of abuse of authority as the lawmakers did not work sincerely. If the sub-panel could not put maximum efforts, it could have at least made the minimum effort to make it trustworthy. This is not an isolated case. Most parliamentary reports are prepared in haste without much substance. The lawmakers need to enhance their research skills to make their reports acceptable.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari underscored the importance of quality education in elevating the country to a middle income one from that of a least developed nation while addressing the golden jubilee function of Adikavi Bhanubhakta Secondary School in Chitwan on Tuesday. Indeed countries that have invested heavily in education have seen impressive economic growth and moved on to developed status in a short period, thanks to enhanced productivity due to an educated labour force.
With the world changing fast especially due to developments in information technology, skills demanded by the labour market are changing. Unless we strive to develop new skills, which will definitely be quite different from the ones learnt in the traditional vocational skills, the country will be pushed further behind the rest of the world. But to improve the education system, the country must invest heavily. But in doing so, quality education should not be the entitlement of the urban elite alone. We must learn to see education as a long-term investment, which will not only reduce poverty but also inequality in whatever form it exists in.
A version of this article appears in print on February 07, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.