Interactive session for MPs on FDI before debate

Think tank PRS Legislative Research will hold a close door interactive session, exclusively for MPs,  on FDI in retail on Tuesday morning before a parliamentary debate begins on the politically sensitive economic issue.

The PRS, which claims that it is the only organisation that tracks parliament functioning in the country, recently courted controversy a few months ago when the Union Home Ministry had denied prior permission to their affiliate, Institute for Policy Research Studies, for accepting foreign fund of $15,55,000 from Ford Foundation and Omidyar Network, two US-based organisations. 

The PRS had indicated that the foreign funds would be used for providing research support to MPs, including attaching a research scholar (named, LAMP Fellows) with an MP so that they are better informed to discuss issues in both Houses.

While blocking the funding, Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran had argued that remittances from US organisations, if allowed, would essentially create a direct risk to the independence of Parliament as the advice and research made available to MPs might be contaminated with possible political and commercial interests of foreign entities, government sources said.

The ministry had also not come across anything suspicious either against the two
US-based NGOs, government sources added.

The PRS has written to MPs inviting them to participate in the one-hour session on FDI in retail to be held at the Constitution Club from 9 am, an hour before the Parliament debate on the topic to be followed by voting on Wednesday.  “The talk will focus on issues related to recent policy developments on FDI in retail—the sector, opportunities and challenges in the current policy environment,” the invite to MPs says.

A professor from Indian Council for Research International Economic Research will lecture
the MPs followed by interactive session, the itinerary in the letter points out.

The communiqué notes that owing to requests from several MPs, the meeting will be out of bounds for public with even invited legislators’ assistants not allowed to attend the session. Ironically, the PRS in its website says that their objective is “to strengthen the legislative process by making it better informed, more transparent and participatory.”
The PRS claims that it has “developed professional relationships with over 250 MPs from over 20 different political parties”. 

However, some MPs don’t like the idea of the briefing.  “The Indian government should set up Parliamentary research and studies to enrich Parliamentary system and Parliamentarians with proper briefing and research with the government funding.  If some private and foreign funded agency or research group is working in legislative sector, there is always scope for suspicion that these agencies are working for some other interest,” says K N Balagopal, CPM Rajya Sabha MP.

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