New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) With the Budget session ending in a complete washout, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu Wednesday slammed the “dysfunctional pattern” saying obstruction of proceedings cannot be allowed to become preferred means of parliamentary expressions.
Naidu, in his customary remarks at the end of the session, said it was a “wasted opportunity” with over 95 per cent time of the 10-day sitting lost in disruptions and adjournments.
Since June 2014 when the BJP-led government came to power, Rajya Sabha passed only 149 Bills during 18 sessions and 329 sittings — less than a Bill in two sittings. This compared to 188 Bills passed during 2009-14 with less number of sittings, and 251 Bills in 2004-2009.
“These statistics clearly shows that the legislative output of this House has substantially declined since 2014,” he said, adding the Budget session — the last of the present term of the Modi government — saw five bills being passed on the last day.
Of the 18 sessions in the last five years, the productivity of the Rajya Sabha was below 60 per cent in 8 sessions. “We are at a moment of reflection, a stock taking of what we have achieved and what we have lost,” he said.
“With a heavy heart I have to say that this short but important Budget session of Rajya Sabha turned out to be yet another wasted opportunity. This only reinforces the ‘dysfunctional pattern’ that has been evident over the last few years which is a matter of serious concern as it poses a serious threat to parliamentary democracy,” the Chairman said.
Naidu said parliamentary democracy is all about ensuring governance through accountability of executive and the legislature to the people.
“What about the accountability of the legislatures and their failure to discharge the mandated functions? Rajya Sabha, as the second chamber of the apex legislature too is accountable to the people. Its performance rankles me quite a bit,” he said.
Parliament is supposed to make legislations, deliberate on issues of public importance and ensure accountability of the government, he said, adding evidence suggests that the Rajya Sabha did not rise to occasion in all three aspects.
“Since June, 2014, the productivity of this august House, in terms of the time available and the time utilized for taking up legislative business and the issues of public concern is only 60 per cent. Who is to be held accountable for wasting 40 per cent of the valuable time of this august House? I leave it to the conscience of all sections of the House,” Naidu said.
The Chairman said just one Bill was passed in Winter session of 2016 and Budget session of 2018, while the monsoon session of 2015 passed two bills. Maximum number of 14 Bills each were passed during monsoon sessions of 2016 and 2018.
Declining productivity and legislative output is a matter of deep concern, he said, citing pendency of large number of Bills in the House. In last five sessions, under his chairmanship, Rajya Sabha passed 28 Bills — less than a Bill in three sittings.
“This session and the last one have witnessed heightened efforts by some sections of the House to force this august House into a kind of ‘suspended animation’,” he said, recalling action of sending out some of the members for continued disruptions.
Naidu said he has made best effort to enable normal functioning of the House, but reason did not prevail. “This is very unfortunate”.
The Chairman also said he has set up a two-member committee to examine existing provision for their adequacy to enable smooth functioning of the House. “This report has been received and the same will soon be referred to the General Purpose Committee of the House”.
“Ultimately, this august House would be what you want it to be. A performing one or a dysfunctional one. People of the country want it to be a performing one. If you have other ideas, you owe an explanation to the people, the ultimate masters,” Naidu said.
During this Budget session with 10 sittings, as against the available total time of 48 hours, 39 hours 51 minutes has been lost due to disruptions. Productivity of the House during this session has been 4.79 per cent, he said.
Giving a report card of the session, he said five bills were passed without discussion, a practice which he felt is better avoided.
Six bills have also been introduced and only 16 zero hour submissions were made. No special mention could be made at all. “We all agree that it was not enough”.
Naidu urged all members to seriously think about enhancing the quality of debates, discussions and, most importantly, the demeanour.
“If cacophony and disruptive spectacle becomes our House’s defining characteristic, we would have betrayed people’s trust in each one of us. I do hope we don’t allow further downslide in the coming sessions,” he said.
Stating that there is a growing perception that democracy is in danger through dysfunctional legislatures, the Chairman said the obstruction of proceedings can’t be allowed to emerge as the preferred form of parliamentary expression substituting informed debates.
“The expectations are high. Our responsibilities are onerous. We can ill afford to regret over lost opportunities we have had. We must script a new chapter next time we meet, a chapter we can all be proud of,” Naidu said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.