30 May 2012

PM's address in Rajya Sabha on 60th anniversary of the first sitting of the Parliament

Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address in Rajya Sabha on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the first sitting of the Parliament: 

“I congratulate you and the members of this august House and the people of India as we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament of India. 

The Rajya Sabha is an institution whose deliberations over the years have enriched our parliamentary democracy, nurtured the strength of our federal polity and served as a bulwark against the transient impulses of the moment. 

This House has a unique position in our Republic. It is both a Council of States and a House of Elders. As a Council of States it provides a unique platform for every region of our vast and diverse country to have its voice heard at the highest forum of our democracy. 

As a House of Elders we are called upon to reflect and guide, with patience and sobriety, on the issues and challenges our nation faces. This House brings balance and sincerity to the deliberations of the day and the legislation at hand. Through thoughtful interventions enriched by experience, intellect and a spirit of national bonding, members of the Upper House have contributed to forging a national consensus on critical issues enabling us to face the challenges of the present and the future as a united nation. 

Many of our great leaders have served this house with great distinction. Replying to felicitations at his election as the first Vice President of India and the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Dr S Radhakrishnan had observed, and I quote: 

“There is a general impression that this House cannot make or unmake governments and, therefore, it is a superfluous body. But there are functions, which a revising chamber can fulfill fruitfully. Parliament is not only a legislative but a deliberative body. So far as its deliberative functions are concerned, it will be open to us to make very valuable contributions, and it will depend on our work whether we justify this two chamber system, which is now an integral part of our Constitution. So it is a test to which we are submitted. We are for the first time starting under the Parliamentary system, with a second chamber in the Centre and we should try to do everything in our power to justify to the public of this country that a second chamber is essential to prevent hasty legislation”. 

I have been a proud member of this august House for the past 21 years. I have personally witnessed and participated in some very enriching and lively debates in this august House. This House has always been a repository of wisdom that has proved invaluable to the functioning of our parliamentary democracy. It has considered and passed historic legislations institutionalizing land reforms through the first constitutional amendment, abolishing privy purses and nationalizing banks. More recently, legislations passed by this House have expanded the entitlements of our people to education, information and minimum employment. 

So I can say with conviction that we have met the test of essentiality that Dr. Radhakrishnan spoke about. I can say with confidence today that, looking at the history of the functioning of the House over the last sixty years, the trust reposed in us by the founding fathers of the Constitution has been substantially fulfilled. 

That is not to say that we should not reflect with concern on the repeated disruptions of proceedings and a regrettable unwillingness, on occasion, to engage in informed discussion. 

On this momentous occasion of the completion of 60 years of the functioning of the House, I hope that we can write a new chapter and restore to it the sense of dignity and decorum that is expected of a House of Elders. 

The resilience of our pluralistic democracy is the proudest achievement of the Indian State and Indian people. The people of India have repeatedly and regularly reposed their faith in the institutions of parliamentary democracy. In recent years, they are making their voice heard more forcefully by voting in increasing numbers in Parliamentary, State Assembly and Panchayat elections. 

There is no doubt that one reason for our growing global stature in the world is our unflinching commitment to pursuing a democratic path to achieving our social and economic salvation. 

It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to respect the great institutions of our democracy and respect the spirit of what is expected from the elected representatives. 

Mr. Chairman, I congratulate all the distinguished members congregated here once again and commend them to the noble task of nation building and service to the people of India. I thank you.” 

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