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May 14, 2012, 10.07 AM IST
Concern over repeated disruptions that have raised questions over the efficacy of Parliament's functioning today marked the 60th anniversary of its first sitting in free India with leaders pressing for "sincere" introspection to restore the dignity of the institution.
Cutting across party lines, leaders asserted that supremacy of Parliament must be preserved, holding that laws are made by it and not mobs, apparently a reference to civil society campaign against Parliamentarians while pressing for setting up of Lokpal.
The leaders took pride in the fact that India has managed to hold on to democracy and was a shining example in the world despite many pressing problems like acute poverty, sustained terrorism and hiccups for democracy in the neighbourhood.
However, a faint reference was made to the brief period of Emergency of 1970s, which was corrected constitutionally soon after.
At the end of the day-long debate, both the Houses passed unanimous resolutions to "uphold and maintain the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of Parliament" and to "make it an effective instrument of change" while strengthening democratic values and principles.
The members in both the Houses also resolved to enhance the accountability of the government towards the people through the oversight of Parliament.
There were some cynical voices which referred to similar resolutions passed on the occasion of 50th anniversary of India's independence when a vow was taken not to resort to disruptions.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who set the tone for introspection as he flagged concerns in the Rajya Sabha over "repeated disruptions" and "unwillingness" for discussions, pressed for "substantive and sincere" introspection.
Winding up a day-long discussion in the Lok Sabha marking the 60th year of the first sitting of Parliament, he said public disenchantment is bound to rise if parties fail to collectively resolve to restore prestige of the institution.
"The daily routine of disruptions, adjournments and shouting in the House are leading many outside to question the efficacy of this institution and its place in public affairs," the Prime Minister said.
Appealing to members to "write a new chapter and restore to it the sense of dignity and decorum" of Parliament, he said every MP should lead by example to restore the prestige of this institution.
"We need to resolve that the Rules of Procedure and conduct that we have collectively evolved would be honoured in letter and spirit," he said.
While asking the country to reject those who mock the institutions of democracy, he admitted that many people often feel frustrated by the disruption of Parliament and "in our own way, each one of us shares the blame for this state of affairs."
He said, "We are not a perfect democracy but we are a functioning democracy with mechanisms and safeguards that allow for the reconciliation of diverse interests and differences.
"It is the vitality and vibrancy of our democracy that keeps the nation united and moving on the path of progress," he said.
A function was held in the central hall of Parliament where four members of the first Parliament were honoured.
The CPI(M) utilised the occasion to press for a combination of proportional representation system along with the 'first past the post' adopted by India in elections, contending that no government at the centre had commanded more than 50% of the polled votes in the last 60 years.
President Pratibha Patil said the Indian democracy "cannot be allowed to falter" at a time when democracies of the world are operating in the complex situations including fractured mandates and explosion of the media.
She said, "Discussions can be difficult and divergent but yet solutions have to be found through discussions in Parliament and resolve through established Parliamentary practices."
Vice-President Hamid Ansari regretted that there was perceptible drop in the working days of Parliament.
"Deliberation is less frequent; legislation is at times hasty...An impression is afoot in some quarters that diligent parliamentary work is less rewarding in political terms," he said.
Noting that new imperatives propelled them, Ansari said, "We do need to respond meaningfully to awakened expectation of a new generation in a changing world."
Speaker Meira Kumar reminded the lawmakers that they were in Parliament to protect interests of people and there was no scope of lapse in discharge of the duties.
The Prime Minister underlined that 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 representatives."
Finance Minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee echoed concerns over disruption in the Lower House when he lamented that a handful of members throttle "silent majority" and called for a mechanism that will eliminate disruptions.
"On many occasions, this House has been tumultuous, tempers ran high, but disruption was the least this House has adopted. Because when we disrupt the House then it serves no purpose. We cannot hear. We cannot speak," he said.
Mukherjee said Parliament has acted as a "shock absorber" on several occasions and whenever there have been disputes, dissensions, the Lok Sabha has played a role in defusing it.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi emphasised that independence of Parliament must be protected at all costs and urged members to live up to the standards of the makers of Constitution.
BJP leader LK Advani shared Mukherjee's views and said tolerance and understanding for each others' views and debates in Parliament can solve issues.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said a major challenge before the country was to improve polity and good governance.
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