Book offers a peek into Rajya Sabha functioning
A commemorative volume on the role of Rajya Sabha, released on Tuesday, not only provides insights into the functioning of the Upper House, but showcases sharp comments from members on changes in the functioning of the House over the decades.
In the book, released during the 250th session of the House of Elders, the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, cites the British Raj to question the ruling National Democratic Alliance government’s reluctance to send some bills for deeper parliamentary scrutiny. Trinamool Congress floor leader Derek O’Brien, on the other hand, takes jibes at some parties for changing their policies on a “day-to-day basis”. And Najma Heptullah, the only woman MP who served a record six terms in the Rajya Sabha, says that if the Upper House had voting power on Union budgets, it would have created bottlenecks for the ruling side on several occasions.
In the book, Azad recalls that, in Colonial India, the “Champaran Agrarian Bill” was introduced in then Bihar-Orissa legislative assembly, several members demanded that it should be referred to a select committee. The Bill had come in the wake of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha and the British rulers requested Gandhi to review it. Later, most of Gandhi’s suggestions were accepted and the Bill was enacted in 1918.
“If the British government was amenable to the suggestions of the members of the Assembly to send a draft bill to a Select Committee, then why is the government of India unwilling, after more than seven decades of Independence, to subject legislative proposals to detailed scrutiny?” Azad wrote.
In the volume, several Rajya Sabha members also stoutly defend the creation of the Upper House and laud its contributions over the last 67 years. Thirty-five sitting members and five former members have conveyed their views. Of the sitting members 14 are from the ruling alliance and 21 from the Opposition. The publication “Role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Parliamentary Democracy” was released by vice-president Venkaiah Naidu in Central Hall on Tuesday.
In his foreword, Naidu said: “As we have the vision of making a New India, our parliamentary institutions will have to play a catalytic role in taking our country forward on the path of development and as House of Elders, Rajya Sabha has to give lead and set higher standards for other democratic bodies to emulate.”
O’Brien, who has often been involved in floor management, observes that “too many parties ‘try and wing it’ in the House. This is not done and it sometimes show up non-serious MPs and parties.” He continued to say: “One or two parties seem to take policy calls on day-to-day basis, depending on the deal of the day.”