NEW DELHI :
The Rajya Sabha is about checks and balances, but there is also a difference between checking and clogging, and balance and blocking, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday in the Rajya Sabha(RS).
Former PM Manmohan Singh said it was imperative for Centre-state relations to be debated in the Upper House, since the RS was a council of states.
The two leaders were addressing a special discussion on the ‘role of Rajya Sabha and the need for reforms’ to mark the 250th session of the Upper House.
This was the first day of the winter session, which comes in the wake of the assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, the official bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories and apex court judgements in key cases, including Ayodhya and Rafale.
Starting the discussion, PM Modi said: “This is absolutely essential for our democracy. Debates have to be many and effective. Rajya Sabha is also representative of India’s diversity. This House gives importance to India’s federal structure." He added that while the Lower House is attached to the ground, the Upper House can see the future.
Speaking on the legislations passed in the House, Modi said: “Whenever it has been about national good, the Rajya Sabha has risen to the occasion and made a strong contribution. It was believed that the bill on triple talaq would not pass here, but it did. Even GST became a reality after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha. We can never forget the role of the Rajya Sabha when bills pertaining to Articles 370 and 35(A) were passed. This House has worked to further unity."
Echoing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi said the Rajya Sabha must be a vibrant supportive House for national progress. In 2003, Vajpayee had said the Rajya Sabha may be the second House, but no one should not think of it as a secondary House.
Appreciating the Biju Janata Dal and the Nationalist Congress Party, PM Modi said they have wonderfully adhered to parliamentary norms. “They have never ventured into the well. Yet, they have made their points very effectively. All political parties, including the treasury benches, can learn from these practices."
Recent parliamentary sessions had seen disruptions leading to several adjournments.
Beginning the discussion for Opposition parties, Singh said that structural changes needed to be introduced in the functioning of the House.
Echoing the sentiment of the Opposition, which has been demanding a discussion on the recent developments in J&K in the Lok Sabha, Singh said: “Converting Jammu and Kashmir to a Union territory has such far reaching consequences. The government should consult with the council of states before such drastic measures can be considered by the House."
“It is our duty to ensure no law is passed in haste or in heightened emotion. The Rajya Sabha gets more time to deliberate since it is half the size of the Lok Sabha and members get more time to share insights and criticism."
“The House must get access to bills much earlier and members should get resources, such as research staff, to allow them to study issues in more depth and members be allotted more time for their speeches," the former prime minister said, adding that it was imperative for discussions and debates on “centre-state relations" to be held along with debates on the state of the nation’s health and education.