Nehru’s worst fears about upper house coming true, says Naidu
Expressing anguish over an “eminently forgettable” post-recess budget session, Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said the fears expressed by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru over the “need and justification” for a second chamber comprising the council of states were coming true.
Naidu said this during his valedictory remark at the conclusion of the Rajya Sabha’s 245th session, which saw a complete washout of proceedings in the house due to constant disruptions by members over some issue or the other from the very first day.
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who headed the Union Constitution Committee for reporting on the structure and function of the future legislature of our country, had feared in 1936 that a second chamber (council of states) will check any forward tendencies of the lower house and will be reactionary. Are we making Nehru’s worst fears come true? We should not, for the sake of our parliamentary democracy and the people,” the Rajya Sabha chairman said.
Naidu stated that the session had turned out to be eminently forgettable on account of missed opportunities as well as an ”utter disregard” for the mandate of the parliamentary institution and its responsibilities. The upper house, he said, was envisaged to enable a reasoned and quiet consideration of bills passed by the other house – slowing them down at best.
“But what is on show here is total obstruction of legislation and disregard for issues of public concern. Let us not be a party to this house becoming a ‘clog in the wheel of progress’. You should instead dispel fears expressed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who – despite his reservations about the utility of this house – supported its coming into being. You need to rise to the expectations of those who strongly justified the need for this house in the constituent assembly,” Naidu said.
Recalling the intense debate in the constituent assembly, the Rajya Sabha chairman said opinion on the need for such a chamber was divided before bicameralism was adopted and the house finally came into being in 1952. Many advocates for the upper house — including then vice-president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and parliamentarian Gopalaswami Ayyengar — said it could be used for holding “dignified debates on important issues and delay legislation that might be the outcome of the passions of the moment until the passions have subsided”.
Giving a report card of the Rajya Sabha’s performance during the session, Naidu observed that even discussions on the general budget for the financial year could not happen due to constant disruptions.
“No legislative work was transacted, with the exception of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and that too without any discussion even as several important bills awaited your consideration. The honourable Supreme Court’s recent verdict on the Act regarding the prevention of atrocities against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes resulted in a certain public perception that caused agitations and even violence in some parts of the country. You did not even discuss it. Proven weaknesses in the management and monitoring of public sector banks led to widespread concern across the country, but you had different priorities and no time to discuss it,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha chairman said that over 113 hours of the House were lost to disruptions as against 43 hours of functioning, and all the members – even those from the ruling party – were responsible for this.
“At the end of such a long session, what can we show to the people of our country as our contribution towards addressing their concerns and furthering their genuine aspirations? Nothing, I am afraid. As a result, we are all the losers. This includes the opposition, the ruling party, the government and, most importantly, the people and the nation. All of you need to now reflect on how we, together, end up creating a lose-lose situation when it could have been a win-win situation. It is time to wake up and look at the way forward.”
Naidu said the highlight of this crucial session was the over three-hour-long farewell accorded to retiring members on March 28.
“But even that could not happen smoothly because the farewell observations, scheduled for a day earlier, were also not allowed. This house could have been more discreet and considerate while allowing such basic courtesies to a large number of retiring members. But even that had to be negotiated,” he said.