An online petition for abolishing triple talaq in India has drawn over 50,000 signatures. There have been many petitions—there’s one seeking another term for the current RBI Governor—that have received considerable response, but their impact, in terms of shaping public policy, remains feeble. Despite media and civil society support, these are seldom taken up by the country’s lawmakers. The country must change its attitude towards petitions—and a good model to follow would be the UK system. Any British citizen can file a petition with the country’s petitions office and if it gets 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond to it. If it garners the support of 100,000 people, it is taken up for discussion in the House of Commons. According to the petitions office website, 221 have got a response while 25 have been debated in the House of Commons. While 100,000 is too small a critical mass of signatures for India, that has over a 100 million Facebook accounts, and a population twenty times that of UK, the country can consider a threshold of, say, 2 million.
As much as engaged citizens, the country needs engaged MPs. Last year, Parliament passed its 15th private member Bill—a Bill introduced by MPs other than ministers—ever, and that too after 36 years. PRS Legislative found that only 11 of 372 such Bills proposed in the 15th Lok Sabha were even discussed. India must also get rid of the ‘whip’ system—in which the party decides the stand on a proposed legislation for all its members—for non-money Bills (only non-money Bills because the government falls if a money Bill fails) . A lawmaker must be free to vote as per her conscience and in the best interest of the nation.