Global India Policy Paper #4

Strengthening Democratic Oversight: An Analysis Of Parliamentary Questions On India’s Development Assistance Programme

Rachna Shanbog
Executive Summary

‘Legislation, Oversight, Representation and Budgeting’ are the key functions of the Indian Parliament. After the executive (Prime Minister and Union Council of Ministers), the 788 Members of Parliament (MPs) – 245 in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and 543 in the Lower House (Lok Sabha), are the next most important set of actors in the country’s policy-making process. In order to carry out these functions, MPs have avenues such as asking questions, and being part of Standing Committees and parliamentary discussions or debates (PRS Legislative Research, 2008). This policy brief examines one of these tools – Parliament Questions (PQs) – to understand how MPs have used it to highlight issues around India’s development cooperation (foreign aid) programme.

This paper provides background information on India’s position as a development partner in the Global South, followed by an analysis of all parliamentary questions directed towards the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on India’s development assistance programme from March 2000 to March 2019 (covering almost four government terms). The next section highlights MPs’ concerns regarding the country’s aid-giving as reflected in the questions they asked, segregated by their political party affiliation.  The paper concludes with a set of recommendations for MPs and others interested in using PQs to better understand India’s overseas development programme.

The suggestions broadly focus on: publicly available sources that can be referred to at the time of drafting PQs, the role that MPs can play in improving the effectiveness of aid programmes, and efforts they can make to inform their constituencies about government expenditures on India’s overseas development assistance programme.

Policy brief 2 Rachna