The Rajya Sabha was on Wednesday adjourned sine die after it passed some Bills including Interim Budget and Finance Bill for 2019-20 without debate.
Asserting that even legislatures are accountable to the people, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, presented a ‘Report to the People’ on the performance of the Upper House during the last five years (2014-19). Breaking new ground and setting a precedent of reporting on the performance of legislatures for the first time in the country, VP Naidu gave details of the legislative output and productivity of Rajya Sabha during the last five years in his valedictory remarks on the last day of the Budget Session of the House today.
Naidu observed “Rajya Sabha as the second chamber of the apex legislature too is accountable to the people. Its performance rankles me quite a bit. This Session being the last one before the general election fast approaching, we need to know as to what extent this august House lived up to its role and responsibilities. In a new initiative, I would like to present the broad story of the functioning of this august House over the last five years. As the responsible electorate of our country are soon to give another verdict, I thought it would be appropriate and even necessary to present a Report to the People on the functioning of Rajya Sabha during the five years since the people gave their verdict last time.”
Vice President then informed that since June 2014, Rajya Sabha held 18 Sessions and 329 sittings till today and passed 154 Bills which comes to less than a Bill in two sittings. This legislative output is 34 lesser than the 188 Bills passed during 2009-2014 and an astonishing 97 Bills lesser than the 251 Bills passed by the Rajya Sabha during 2004-09.
The Chairman noted with concern that since 2014 the House could make use of only 60% of the time available and lost 40% of the valuable time of the House on account of disruptions. Of the total 18 Sessions over the last five years, the Chairman noted that the productivity of the House has been below the five year average of 60% in respect of eight Sessions.
Naidu said while the average sittings of the House per year since 2014 was as per the trend of 60 to 70, the steep decline in the productivity of the House was a matter of serious concern.
The Chairman noted with concern that “Every Question Hour lost means forfeiting the opportunity of seeking answers from the government on eight issues of policy, implementation and governance by 40 members. Every Zero Hour lost means depriving 15 members from raising issues of immediate public importance.”
Referring to the functioning of the House during the Budget Session that concluded today, Naidu noted that it was another wasted opportunity reinforcing 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. He noted “The looming prospects of this Session ending up as one without passing any Bill has been thankfully averted by late realisation and some understanding today. As a result, five Bills have been passed today but I suggest the practice of passing Bills without discussion is better avoided.”
The Chairman further informed that during this Budget Session with ten sittings, as against the available total time of 48 hours, 39 hours and 51 minutes have been lost due to disruptions resulting in the productivity of the House of only 4.90%. Six new Bills have been introduced during this Budget Session and only 16 Zero Hour submissions could be made.
Chairman Naidu appealed to all sections of the House to evolve a ‘collective conscience’ to enable effective functioning of the House to prevent any further damage to its standing. He said “The Legislature and the Executive have the bounden duty of doing the needful responding to the wishes and aspirations of the people as conveyed in their mandate in the general elections.” He expressed concern over the efforts by some sections to force the House into a kind of ‘Suspended animation’.
Conveying his sense of anguish, he said “Obstruction of proceedings can’t be allowed to emerge as the preferred form of parliamentary expression substituting informed debates.”
He said “I have made my best possible efforts to enable normal functioning of the House but reason did not prevail. I have been regularly talking to leaders of various parties but my anguish had no impact. This only expressed the limitations of the Chair in altering the scripts of some sections of the House.”
Five Bills were passed by Rajya Sabha on the last day of the Budget Session, The Appropriation Vote on Account Bill, 2019, The Appropriation Bill, 2019, The Finance Bill, 2019, The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Third Amendment) Bill, 2019
Chairman informed the House that despite all the shortcomings during the last five years, Rajya Sabha passed a few path-breaking Bills, positively impacting the socio-economic development of the country besides checking corruption and improving transparency. Such 15 Bills referred by him were: The Constitution (124 th Amendment) Bill, 2019 providing 10% reservation for economically weaker sections, The Constitution (122 nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 for introduction of GST, The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Bill, 2015, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, The Constitution (123 rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 for setting up a National Commission for Backward Classes, The Real Estates (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2016 to protect the interests of buyers and enhance confidence in and credibility of Real Estate Sector, The AADHAR (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016.