We had the honor and privilege of visiting the Parliament of India yesterday in New Delhi. The Parliament of India is bicameral with the upper house known as the Rajya Sabha and the lower house Lok Sabha. The MPs of Lok Sabha are directly elected by the Indian public and the MPs of Rajya Sabha are elected by members of the State Legislative Assemblies. The parliament is composed of 790 MPs.
Getting into the Parliament was quite the ordeal. Many of us, I believe, had not been subjected to such high levels of security. We were questioned regarding our families and underwent at least 6 pat downs at multiple security checkpoints. At many of the checkpoints, the security guards also seemed perplexed whenever Phil Kim T’13 mentioned that he was from Canada (Note: He is of South Korean descent). The high levels of security are due to a previous terrorist attack on the parliament in December 2001 that led to the death of six military personnel in addition to one civilian.
After passing the security checkpoints, we had the opportunity to sit in on the proceedings of the lower house (Lok Sabha). The topics of the day included (1) RFID schemes to improve the collection of tolls and reduce traffic and (2) the safety of fishermen off the cost of India near Sri Lanka. The discussions were lively and full of animation to say the least. Members of opposing parties were continually hounding each other and engaged in traditional parliamentary debate.
Most surprising to us were the strict parliamentary codes of conduct for visitors. Mike Friedman T’13 was accosted for leaning forward and for not sitting straight with his back to the bench. Karen Olson T’13 was also warned for crossing her legs during the parliamentary procession. We were also constantly monitored to make sure we weren’t engaging in any improper behavior.
We were all fortunate to have had the unique experience of witnessing the legislative proceedings for the largest democracy in the world. If we had waited an extra day, we might have been able to witness the heated debate on whether to allow Walmart into India!