New Delhi: The Indian
parliament Sunday celebrated 60 years of its existence with
leaders, mainly from the ruling Congress, calling for an end to
frequent disruptions and the need for parliamentarians to
introspect over their behaviour.
Both houses of parliament held day-long special sittings with
party leaders recalling India's freedom struggle and the nation
becoming the largest democracy in the world. But there were words
of self-criticism as well.
Members of both houses met together in the central hall in the
evening when President Pratibha Patil presented mementoes to
92-year-old Rishang Keshing, a Rajya Sabha member from Manipur,
who was a member of the the first Lok Sabha.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok
Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar were among those who attended the
During the debates in the two houses, speakers from both sides of
the political divide stressed that the supremacy of the Indian
parliament must be preserved as Manmohan Singh flagged concerns in
his speech over "the routine of disruptions" and members'
"unwillingness" to discuss key issues in the forum of parliament.
"The daily routine of disruptions, adjournments and shouting in
the house are leading many to question the efficacy of this
institution," Manmohan Singh said, addressing the Lok Sabha.
He urged MPs to think over their conduct "as we look ahead, this
occasion should also become the moment for some candid and serious
"The manner in which we have conducted our affairs…has created a
sense of frustration and disillusionment among the people," the
prime minister stressed, referring to the frequent opposition
protests that have blocked many key legislations and also led to
hundreds of business hours being wasted.
The prime minister's concerns may not be off the mark given how
noisy protests stalling parliament business have increased in the
last years with the winter session in 2010 getting washed out
Figures reveal how the number of sittings has also gone down over
Sample this. The Lok Sabha sat for an average 127 days and the
Rajya Sabha for 93 days in the 1950s, according to PRS Legislative
Research, an independent think tank.
And in 2011, the number of days of sittings for the both houses
was 73 days.
The first Lok Sabha in the 1950s passed an average of 72 bills
each year but the 15th Lok Sabha has only passed an average of 40
bills a year.
Parliament passed the highest number of bills - 118 - in 1976 when
the nation was under the Emergency. The lowest number of bills -
18 - were passed in 2004.
Perhaps with these statistics in mind and his own 21 years of
experience as a lawmaker, Manmohan Singh appealed to members to
"write a new chapter and restore to it the sense of dignity and
decorum that is expected of" parliament.
He said MPs should "reflect with concern on the repeated
disruptions of proceedings and a regrettable unwillingness, on
occasion, to engage in informed discussion".
"Therefore," the prime minister said, it was "incumbent upon all
of us to respect the great institutions of our democracy and
respect the spirit of what is expected from the elected
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the leader of the
Lok Sabha, also lamented that a handful of members was strangling
the "silent majority".
"On many occasions, this house has been tumultuous, tempers ran
high, but disruptions were the least this house has adopted.
Because when we disrupt the house then it serves no purpose. We
cannot hear. We cannot speak."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi who rarely speaks in the house
said people outside the country had apprehensions about the
success of democracy of the country. "Our conduct must be
according to the standards of the founding fathers," she said.
However, there were moments of sharing pride on India's democracy
that has made the country an example in the world despite problems
like poverty and terrorism.
Parliamentarians spoke of India's unflinching commitment to
Participating in the debate, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya
Sabha Arun Jaitley hailed India's growth to the stature of the
"Social justice, elimination of poverty, healthcare, women's
empowerment, these are all greater challenges in the decades to
come," Jaitley said.
At the end of the daylong sitting MPs resolved to uphold
parliament's "dignity, sanctity and supremacy" to make it an
effective instrument of change.
In a unanimously adopted resolution in the both houses, they also
vowed to enhance the government's accountability through
parliament's oversight mechanism and rededicate themselves
"completely to the sacred task of nation building".