Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

The last session of the 14th Lok Sabha ended last week- the stage is now set for the next general elections.

Since we can see on television how the proceedings in the Lok Sabha take place, we are under no illusion that the affairs of our nation are discussed in serious tones by our elected representatives, or that bills are passed after due deliberation.

But if we look at the statistics, the situation is even worse than we imagine.

In his concluding speech, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said that the current Lok Sabha had only 332 sittings and it had wasted 24% of its total time.

Great hype was created in this Lok Sabha about Parliament’s GeNext but their performance was not encouraging. MPs below 40 years had the lowest attendance record in the house, according to statistics compiled by the Parliamentary Research Service. They also participated less in debates than their older counterparts.

As the term of this Lok Sabha drew to a close, bills were passed in unseemly haste, with little or no deliberation.

At the end of the special session of the Lok Sabha in Dec. 2008, the Lok Sabha passed 8 bills in 17 minutes.On Tuesday afternoon, when BJP MPs stormed the well, rejecting the government’s statement on minority affairs minister A R Antulay’s demand that the shooting of ATS chief Hemant Karkare should be probed, the chair quickly took up pending legislation which had swelled to nine from the five listed at the start of the day.”

MPs complained that the suplementary list of business was not circulated and legislation was not discussed.

But this sort of thing did not happen just these last few months. In 2006, over 40% of bills were passed in the Lok Sabha with less than an hour of debate.

Regarding actual participation of MPs in debates, the situation is not satisfactory either. In 2006, in the monsoon and winter sessions of Parliament, just 173 MPs in Lok Sabha actually said anything on the floor of Parliament on legislative issues. During these two sessions, almost 65 per cent of MPs said nothing on the floor of the Lok Sabha on legislation.

I am reminded of Parkinson’s Law of TrivialityCyril Northcote Parkinson explains this law with the example of a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant, on a bicycle shed, and on a coffee maker.

The decision regarding the nuclear reactor is so complicated that most of the members cannot understand it. Only two do understand it but one of them not willing to explain his stand against the other, who is more aggressive. So the decision is made without much discussion.

A bicycle shed is something everyone can understand, and a long discussion takes place regarding the material to be used.

The coffee maker being the easiest to comprehend, the most heated discussion takes place regarding this.

In the case of our Lok Sabha, we have seen that many important bills are passed without much discussion.

I wonder, which are the discussions that our elected representatives spend their precious time on?


  1. “I wonder, which are the discussions that our elected representatives spend their precious time on?”They spend their time i)calculating how much money they have in Switzerland ii)finding a pretext for an all expense paid first class foreign jaunt and iii) wondering who to align with to stay in power


  2. Hahaha…… are so right. Law of Triviality indeed.Parliamentary debates require a lot of preparation, research and briefing by either party experts or other domain experts.In the UK, they have a concept of Shadow Cabinet. The opposition has their own shadow ministers for each portfolio and they have a practice of rotating young members through various duties and proceedures.This helps these MPs understand the subject and be prepared for debates. Though, simpler legislation or discussion on normal subjects would elicit maximum participation. Specialised subjects would have select participation and high quality debates.


  3. ”I wonder, which are the discussions that our elected representatives spend their precious time on?”hmmmm…lets see the vote for cash’ thing really gets them all excited(I figure its the moolah that gets the sparkle in the eye)and throwing chairs is an art…… also,count how to throw shoes/chappals etc as a part of this ‘art’..there are special days dedicated to celebrating this’ art’…even connoisseurs of this art dont know on which day they will be practicing it..its all a surprise you see….err…please include verbal beauties in this ‘art’ list…certain choice names are thrown around with abandon….its also a part of the great Indian art festival…hmm…are we done yet?no not by a long shot…we also love to practice ‘walkouts’walkout if you aint in the mood to sit inside that huge hall..walkout if you feel like having tea..walkout if you feel the opponent has ‘offended ‘ you…and we have debates too only they are our version of it..which would include all the above mentioned arts…thank youhave I answered your question yet?:D((hugs))


  4. when i first saw the title i seperated into two distinct parts ParkinsonsLaw of trivality.Just because you hesitate or get scared to discuss you resort to the laws of trivality is what i understood ( until i read the post completely)looks like indian bloggers who write serious issues is finding humor – Gopinath artickles truly seemed to have trickled the philosophy.On another note your discover india feature was amazing. what made you stop?


  5. I think Indian politicians have realised the futility of discussion on bills and subjects that either they do not understand(nicely explained by you)or they understand but know will yield little political dividend if they waste time and effort discussing them. So, the farce of Parliament is reduced only to sensational and stupid issues which can yield petty political dividends. This leads to the logical conclusion that attending Parliament is a sheer waste of time for most of them. The young MPs have learnt quickly that there are better things to do outside Parliament.The use of Parliament as an institution as it is meant to be, for the nation, has been relegated to the background. It is time to consider conduct of Parliament through some sort of video conferencing. The ‘attendance’ will improve, charging towards the well of the House will be eliminated and the fish market like atmosphere that shames us will be avoided. Also, votes of MPs on bills should be got online and the farce of their coming to Parliament done away with. Time to make Virtual Parliament a reality!


  6. The money exchange scandal with those crores on display was supposed to have captured all the MP’s attention. Ofcourse. Ofcourse. Ofcourse !What a sad state we have come to..


  7. The present breed of politicians from which i am supposed to chose my REPRESENTATIVE seem no different. Untill the system is changed to empower commitment and leadership over money and power, we might perhaps end up witnessing even more examples of the law of triviality.


  8. Great summarised post… I wanted to write about this, I am glad that you have written what I wanted to convey. I will link your post when I write on this. I can say, our MPs quality is deteriorated with every passing election and I am not seeing it will be any better this time 😦


  9. i was rereading my last commentmy “you” in my last comment does NOT mean ” you as a blogger ” but it meant any person.i wanted to clarify.thanksanrosh


  10. Bones- Right you are! Their time- and the taxpayers’ money!Mavin- The practice of a shadow cabinet would be such a such a useful one for our MPs, particularly for the younger members.Indyeah- Your answers are all right on target!


  11. Anrosh- Gopinathji’s Artickles have influenced many in the blogging world! About the discover India feature- I’ve been a bit lazy. I mean to post a new picture soon. BTW, I understood the ‘you’ in your comment’.:)Vinodji- Video-conferencing is a great idea! I hope our MPs won’t find a way to charge the well of the House virtually.Kavi- It certainly is a sad state, maybe the next Lok Sabha will be an improvement.


  12. Ha Ha! Enjoyed this one! Manju, you are spot on here. The most trivial issue gets debated to death. When I was handling logistics, I used to say that the smaller the consignment to be shipped, the louder the noise (as in telephonic calls, emails, followups etc). It applies everywhere! @ Anrosh, thanks for attributing the spread of humor posts to my Artickles and to Manju for acknowledging it. I do hope such humor posts increase! There is no point in raving and ranting angrily all the time.


  13. R.K.- Well, our MPs do reflect the society they come from. Kislay- Yes I like this law that Parkinson has stated, too. He seems to have made a very accurate assessment of human nature.Kanagu- Thank you!Gopinathji- You are right about humour posts. The same point that is brought out in a serious post, can be made very effectively through humour.However, for this it is required that the writer should be talented as you are!


  14. Joke is what our elections are and jokers are what our politicians are. At least humor drives home a point. :)About your last question? There is so much to do? All the scandals, bribes, hafta, infidelity, movies. No time for parliament. There is a joke about government jobs. “Pehle mujhe ek sarkaari naukri mil jaaye phir main araam se chutti loonga”. This is apt for our Sarkar.


  15. ***sigh** You summarized it well..Very much thought provoking.. ///Joke is what our elections are and jokers are what our politicians are. ah,how true…//many important bills are passed without much discussion.More faster is those bills that include pay hikes for jokers ranging from President to all down the line :rolls eyes:


  16. Solilo- Very true about government jobs!Shail- I also thought that this Law describes the situation in our Lok Sabha quite well!Nimi- Thank you!


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