NEW DELHI :
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said it was imperative for members of the Upper House to debate Centre-state relations since the Rajya Sabha was a council of states.
Singh’s words, which come in the wake of the recently concluded assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, also echoed the sentiment of the Opposition which has been demanding a discussion on the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir in Parliament.
“Converting Jammu and Kashmir to a Union territory has such far reaching consequences. The government should consult the council of states before such drastic measures can be considered by the House," Singh said in the Upper House.
Marking the 250th session of the Rajya Sabha, Singh added that structural changes needed to be introduced in the functioning of 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 Lok Sabha and members get more time to share insights and criticism," Singh said. “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."
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, he added.
While former Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari had changed the timing of zero hour and question hour to the current time of 12 noon and 11am, respectively, Singh said the move had made it possible to “raise important issues during zero hour".
“In 16th Lok Sabha only 25% bills were referred to committees as compared to 15th and 14th LS. Regardless of what other the House does, it is crucial for our House to form select committees to ensure bills received go through detailed scrutiny. RS select committees have done a commendable job to improve legislation and the practice must be followed for all bills that come to this august house," Singh said.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to mark the 250th session of the Rajya Sabha said the House is for checks and balance, but there is a difference between checking and clogging; balance and blocking.