Vice President's Secretariat
azadi ka amrit mahotsav

Text of the Vice-President’s Address at the valedictory session of the 9th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)- India Region Conference in Udaipur, Rajasthan

Posted On: 22 AUG 2023 5:57PM by PIB Delhi

नमस्कार!

Honorable Governor in the State of Rajasthan, परम आदरणीय श्री कलराज मिश्रा जी his presence here has been one of enlightenment in the largest democracy on the earth, home to one sixth of the humanity, there are not many who can match, his experience, exposure and contribution. He has had the occasion to be in both Houses of Parliament and in Uttar Pradesh Assembly and the Council. On the Executive side, he has contributed as a senior minister in Uttar Pradesh and Central Government. He has held positions in organizations of great significance. His holding position of Governor in State of Rajasthan is an honour not to him, but to the chair he occupies. We are grateful Sir for your enlightened wisdom. You have in great detail given out the entire scenario and I'm sure you have given us enough food for thought. You will guide us, motivate us and inspire us. We wish you many years of good health and public life working.

Shri Om Birla, Hon’ble Speaker Lok Sabha. It's a unique and rare honour when you become a speaker of the largest democracy on the planet, and mother of democracy, but over the years in spite of political weaklings Shri Om Birla has found place in the heart of Parliamentarians, he devised innovative mechanism to ensure every member of Parliament takes to the floor. where there have been occasions toughness was called for Shri Om Birla ji took recourse to persuasive mechanism only. He has contributed at a global level also, he has visited several countries. And it was heartening for me as Vice President to know that some of the global leaders reflected about him in a very glowing manner. His presence here and his being part of the system is a boon to us. I have seen as the chairman of Rajya Sabha, a man of simple habits but very effective and firm when it comes to changing the mechanism and that is why I will not stretch you all much on the first subject. Shri Birla ji has in great detail reflected on digital aspects and technological empowerment of representatives to help the people at large. He doesn't look at legislature through political prism. In that sense. We are lucky to have a speaker who has a statesman like approach.

Dr. CP Joshi is another gem in the jewel, he has enormous capability to distance the two things, politics and the job of his speaker. When he has won hat of speaker, he doesn't look through a political prism and therefore, he has become somewhat of a role model by holding several functions in the state legislature which are normally beyond contemplation given the highly divisive politics we have in the country. But his love for his area is reflected every time. Udaipur and Nathdwara are never out of his mind.

Sri Satish Mahana, I have had the occasion to be the member of Lok Sabha in 1989 but in number of months I spent in Lok Sabha, Mr. Mahana has spent twice that number in months in the legislature, more than three decades a legislator in contiguity but what stands out about him is and what will be a matter pride for every speaker here, every Deputy Speaker, every chairman of a council and both for Mr. Birla and myself- he has shown his toughness that bureaucracy cannot take legislatures lightly, a matter that was pending for nearly two decades. It was less than two decades. He decided, he decided very firmly and he decided with a soft heart. I would appeal to everyone to read his judgment, when for breach of privilege, he convicted some officials, he reinforced the supremacy of legislature. He did not show weakness. It is our bounden duty to enforce respect for legislature which means the respect for the people at large.

He punished them symbolically, but effectively. That judgement, I am sure, everyone here would like to go through. CPA Chairperson Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger, I've not known him personally for long. I've had interaction with him only recently. But my connect with CPA goes back to more than three decades. When I was a Minister, a junior Minister, and of course, a younger person, at that point of time. I was a facilitator for organising CPA in Delhi. I know the importance of CPA and therefore his presence here would mean a lot to us. I would take the occasion here to indicate to him that CPA is very functional body. Representation is one part of it. But in the CPA Secretariat, there is need to upgrade the participation of human resource from 1/6th of humanity. That will help the CPA Secretariat, that will generate good vibes and I'm sure a man at his senior level will look into it. Mr Sanyam Lodha, Secretary CPA, energetic person, I know him for long, will not take the risk of saying more about him, but the best for him is yet to come. We have friends, three members of Parliament I must acknowledge their presence here. Shri Rajiv Shukla, is a very senior member of Rajya Sabha. I'm grateful to him in particular, because I requested him that given his seniority and given the presence of CPA Chairperson, his participation would add value to the proceedings. We have Smt. Sulata Deo a lady member of Rajya Sabha, who glorified the institution by being an extremely effective woman Chairperson. I'm sure she would gain a lot here. We have Shri Uday Pratap Ji, from Lok Sabha, a man from Madhya Pradesh.

Friends, legislatures cannot function unless we have spinally strong Secretariat and Lok Sabha in particular is fortunate to have a very experienced man, Shri Utpal Kumar Singh, a senior IAS officer, is extremely committed man devoted to his job. We have Mr. Rajit Punhani, is Secretary Rajya Sabha, a senior IAS officer, equally committed to his job. I greet the honourable Speakers, Deputy Speakers, Members of the Secretariat, Honourable Ministers of the State government and distinguished guests on this significant occasion.

Friends, it gives me immense pleasure to address this distinguished gathering at the conclusion of today and very fruitful deliberations as I could make out, this 9th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, India Region Conference. And this is being held in the City of Lakes. I'm sure you all would have had a very soothing comfortable time here. We all are aware: CPA India region is dedicated to safeguarding the bedrock principles of democracy and advancing the values that its parent association tirelessly strives to uphold. The world knows us and very well; we are mother of democracy. We are the largest democracy; we are home to 1/6 of humanity. And our democracy is unique in the world, because Bharat has Constitutionally structured democracy at the village level, at the Panchayat level, at the zila parishad level, at the state level and at the central level. This platform offers us unique and unparalleled opportunity to engage in in depth deliberations concerning the critical challenges that currently besiege legislatures and the nation.

Friends, one of the two themes of the conference has great topical relevance. It’s of contemporaneous bearing, it is staring us in our face, it is writing on the wall that has to be addressed. It can no longer be delayed and that is, role of public representatives in strengthening the nation through democratic institutions. I congratulate the CPA Secretariat for having chosen this subject for deliberation by those who are supreme stakeholders in performance of legislatures and their output.

I'm sure deliberations would have been rewarding experience, both on the technological aspect as well to the second part for all the participants.

Friends, every legislator as a representative of the people bears constitutional and moral responsibility to vigorously endeavour to find tangible and meaningful resolution to address challenges faced by the people. This is the expectation when people elect legislators that the person represents them in the theatre of legislature. They have a lot of expectations.

Time has come when we need to engage into reality checks: are we really coming up to their expectations?

Public representatives are supposed to be role models for the people. They are expected to exemplify conduct which is worth emulation by others. When we look within, when we ponder and reflect, we find a worrisome scenario. We have to take note of the ground reality.

Friends, I am saying with pain and a deep sense of responsibility, be in no doubt there should be no doubt at all, the institution of public representatives is under severe strain. Their reputation, their conduct, their contribution is under severe strain.

The temples of democracy meant for dialogue, deliberation, debate and discussion are, these days, because of the legislators, representatives of people, hotbeds of disturbance and disruption.

As a consequence of such unwholesome scenario, Parliament and legislatures are fast surging into irrelevance. Think within, when legislature meets, Parliament meets, who is bothered? What is the space occupied? What is the perception generated? Only disruption and disturbance or boycott for unruly conduct gets reported. This gruesome situation ill augurs for democratic values.

It is paramount role of public representatives to ensure executive accountability and fiscal discipline in governance. Public representatives represent the public in the most important theatre. They have the power to generate accountability of the Executive, of the government. They have to get into the job of securing fiscal prudence. Are we doing that?

Surely, we can. Surely, we must. Surely that is the obligation of our oath. But that unfortunately is not happening.

Friends, remember, executives in the country are having lofty accomplishments. Highway infrastructure, rail, road, connectivity, great projects, digital penetration in the villages. Great job. Judiciary is equally performing.

But how about legislature, the third most important and the most important thing of governance? We have to see; we are far from giving delivery to the people or performing the way we should have.

Political intoxication of the people by distribution of largesse requires serious deliberation. What we see all around… look at the advertisements, look at the performance of state governments. Look at how public exchequer is being channelized. Who has to check it? It doesn't require one to be a great economist to know that your finances must measurably go for capital expenditure.

You have to empower human resource, you have to reach their mind and heart for capacity building- as against this you're reaching the pocket.

That is something which legislators have to think about. This political intoxication of reaching out to the pocket of the people, by greasing their palms or their pockets, may be a short-term success story, but for the nation, a long-term damage, and we have in the world countries that have been bled because of such kind of situations. Luckily our governance is very effective and economic macro parameters are under control, but who has to think about it? People have entrusted this thinking job to representatives. If they don't do it, things will be in difficult shape.

We must acknowledge and I say it with great pain that a dysfunctional legislature has the potential to undermine democratic values and would impede the blossoming of democracy. If legislature doesn't work, who gets advantage? The government! Who gets reprieve, the bureaucrat. If legislature doesn't function, it means that representatives don't get the opportunity to mould policy to raise issues. This is absolutely something which must engage our thought process.

In any democracy, parliamentary sovereignty is inviolable. Of all the organizations- executive, judiciary and legislature, the legislature is supreme. We have made legislature vulnerable. We have made it vulnerable because we have refused to vindicate our oath.

We have not focused on our duties. We have taken our job very lightly. The people present in this room have the capacity to motivate, generate a feeling, an ecosystem whereby all legislators understand the damage they are doing by engaging into conduct which is not expected of them.

For success of democracy, legislature, executive, judiciary must act in harmony, must act in tandem and togetherness but Parliament alone, legislature alone, is the repository of the will of the people through representatives.

But we are damaging our spine. We are turning out to be spinally so weak that we cannot even make a point and incursions are taking place that are not healthy for governance. I appeal to every legislator to think within, reason out with his or her party. You cannot act in a manner by damaging your spine. You’ll be bed ridden.

Effective and productive legislature functioning is the safest guarantee to blossoming of democratic values. Imagine if legislatures function without disruption, without disturbance, debates take place, surely we will have better laws. The Honourable speaker was right on the dot, we make law and people don't know about it for years. Because laws are passed without participation. I had the great pain and anguish in telling people, when you walk out of a Parliamentary theatre- Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha or assembly, you are not walking out from theatre, you're walking out from your duty. You're walking out from your obligations. You are betraying the trust of the people. Your role as trustee of the people is coming to an end and you have no reason to know why you are walking out.

Recurrent disruptions that result in squandering of valuable Parliamentary hours must prompt us to introspect atleast now as a collective body. The Parliament missed the mark in living up to its profound constitutional responsibilities. Disorder in the temples of democracy, these cases have become the new norm. It's been taken for granted that the entire session will be washed. Take for instance Manipur. In Lok Sabha, where Honourable speaker presides, the Honorable Home Minister extensively gave everything to the people at large about Manipur. The Honorable Prime Minister gave everything extensively at a micro level but in Rajya Sabha I was the first one on 20th of July to agree for a discussion. This didn't fructify till the end. Time for everyone to think why the House of Elders, the Upper House, the House that is in continuation unlike Lok Sabha, could not debate, discuss- why?

At this occasion, friends, I recollect what Dr. BR Ambedkar said, I quote “Unless we in Parliament realize our responsibilities and shoulder the task of looking after the welfare of and good of the people, I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that this Parliament will be treated by people outside with utter contempt”.

This is what Dr. Ambedkar said. We have proved him to be prophetic. People have no respect for us. People have respect for executive. It is performing, delivering, it is giving you gas connections, it is giving you highways, airports. It's giving you toilets, jal in every nal. What are we doing? Let us engage into self-audit, so that we know where we are.

Friends, we are now faced with grim reality. Let us all pledge to be alive to these prophetic concerns by Architect of the Constitution and cautions of the founding fathers of our republic and retrieve the cliff hanging situation. We are clinging. We are about to lose grip. If Parliamentarians, representatives of the people don’t occupy public space in Parliament, other people will occupy outside. Our representative is under constitutional oath. Others are not. There surely can't be a situation we are imagining.

Honourable members, a poignant question that heavily weighs on my mind. When members fritter away the invaluable opportunity to engage in robust debates, and hold the government accountable, where does the blame truly lie? Who do I blame? As Chairman, Rajya Sabha or Mr Birla as the speaker of Lok Sabha? It is on individual members, their political party parties or the greater political coalitions to which they pledge their allegiance?

Now, when I talk to individual members, they are best of human resource. They want debate. I don't know what happens when they come into the House. Everything evaporates, which means they are unable to convince their political masters and bosses that do not come in the way of the discharge of Constitutional duties. Politics is important. You play the politics the way you want but you cannot play politics all the time. You cannot have political specs all the time. Issues concerning the nation are concern of everyone, the ruling and the opposition.

Now, we as presiding officers, what do we do? We face a grim situation. I faced as Chairman, Rajya Sabha. For every indecorous act, for every behaviour which people will not approve, every behavior which goes against the rule, they have a past precedent that it was done in 2011, it was done in 1997. We must decide today- what is wrong is wrong, what is indecorous is indecorous. We shall not sanctify our wrong because such a wrong has taken place earlier in that regime. The world is changing. India is rising. It is unstoppable. We are the fifth largest economy on the globe. We have beaten our erstwhile colonial rulers for centuries, they ruled us for centuries. We will be the third largest economy by turn of the decade.

Global bodies are hinting that India is the favourite destination of Investment and Opportunity. In this scenario, how can we be in our own chains?

Friends, I firmly believe the government and the opposition play indispensable roles within the framework of Parliamentary democracy. The synergy between the government and the opposition is pivotal. Why is it missing? Are we here in legislature to score brownie points?

No, our motto has to be to serve the people at large. We are far distanced from that wholesome activity. A Parliament where the government and opposition work in tandem is always in the interest of the nation.

Every legislator takes his place in the chamber of Parliament, he becomes a part of history. He becomes a glorified citizen.

I fail to understand after getting such embellishment, such great honour, when you become part of history… the only achievement is: non-performance, poor performance, indecorous behaviour. This is more menacing than COVID. It is time we find a solution to this.

Those who used to advise India, a few decades ago are now seeking our advice because we as a nation have risen. Indian genius is impacting global corporates. They are contributing to global economy, and we as legislators have to introspect, reflect and make amends.

We have in India a promising trajectory of growth. It is incremental. All elements the world envying us, the world is stunned as all major economies are struggling, we are not suffering. I can tell you by way of illustration 46% of digital transactions in the world in 2022, were from India. Our digital transactions, were four times that of USA, UK, France and Germany taken together. Our per capita data consumption of internet was more than that of US and China taken together. Our people are performing. We see the change.

What I could not visualize your dream as a Member of Parliament in 1989 is a ground reality. I could never imagine, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, a toilet in every household, water in every tap, electricity in every household, connectivity in every village would take place. It has taken place in my lifetime.

We would have done much better, if legislators, public representatives were accountable to their oath, accountable to the people. The acted as trustees to the people rather than being in bondage and that bondage is not democratic. It takes essence out of democratic values

What is the prime role of the opposition? The opposition functions through public representatives. Where? Not on the street which sometimes they do. They have to do it on the floor of the House be it Parliament or Legislature. They have to generate accountability, transparency; that can't be done if you walk out of the house.

I would appeal to everyone, particularly those present here to think and make the institution efficacious, effective, penetrating and result oriented. Criticising the government is the role of the opposition that can take place on the front of the House, that opportunity is being missed.

There are several issues which we need to debate in the House. Ours is a country that has robust judicial system. Access to judicial system is of the highest quality, recent events have shown it. But whenever someone is visited with a notice they take to the streets. I, from this platform, appeal to our younger people: time has come for them. They are the greatest stakeholders of governance in this country. Their future is at stake. They are the foot soldiers of Bharat@2047. They must exercise their judgement, discretion and option to ensure that their representatives fall in line. They will have to take this call.

I have no doubt, the kind of ecosystem that is emerging in the country, Bharat@2047, when it celebrates centenary of independence, will be at peak. यदि इतने बड़े हवन में, इतने बड़े यज्ञ में हर कोई अपनी आहुति दे रहा है, वो आहुति नहीं दे रहे रहें हैं जिनका परम कर्त्तव्य है, जिनके लिए आवश्यक है, वो जनता के प्रति अपनी वफादारी दिखाएं,

A single Member of Parliament or legislature by proper function in legislature and Parliament can put the government in line.

…..वो जमाने चले गए जब मैं पार्लियामेंट की हिस्ट्री को देखता हूं , भूतकाल में जाता हूं शासक दल के पास बहुसंख्या होती थी, पर प्रतिपक्ष इतना मज़बूत होता था, एक एक व्यक्ति प्रश्न पूछता था, तयारी करता था, अपनी बात कहता था, बात का असर होता था, जनता के अंदर एक भावना जागृत होती थी और एक समुद्र बन जाता था। वो सब पता नहीं बातें कहां गईं, आज के दिन आपसी बर्ताव आक्रोश पूर्ण हो गया है, जब देश में अब कुछ ठीक चल रहा है…

We don't have to agree to everything under the sun. We can agree to disagree but then we have gone much beyond that.

Friends, our Constitution provides freedom of speech but legislators have a unique freedom- anything they say on the floor of the parliament or legislature, एक सौ चालीस करोड़ जनता भी मुकदमा नहीं कर सकती, ना दीवानी मुकदमा कर सकती है न फौजदारी मुकदमा कर सकती है, इतना बड़ा अधिकार मिलता है लेजिस्लेटर को कि विधान सभा या सदन के अंदर कुछ भी कहें, मुकदमा नहीं होता, पर ये बेलगाम बात नहीं है, ये गभीर विषय है आप इसका दुरुपयोग नहीं कर सकते, इसका दुरुपयोग यदि होता है तो सबसे ज्यादा ज़िम्मेदारी उन लोगों पर है जो यहां बैठे हैं…We cannot be merciful then. We are protectors- एक सौ चालीस करोड़ लोगों की हिफ़ाज़त हम करेगें, हम ये इजाजत नहीं दे सकते की अनर्गल बात, गलत बात, तथ्यहीन बात, तथ्यों से परे बात, आप तुरन्त कह दो और अकाउंटबिल्टी नहीं लो, ये चिंतन का विषय है इस पर मंथन करना चाहिए जरूर अच्छा निष्कर्ष निकलेगा।

Friends, the discussions over these two days I am sure must have been very enlightening and you will take home homework so.

महामहिम राज्यपाल राजस्थान इस क्षेत्र के बहुत बड़े अनुभवी हैं, भीष्म पितामह है, इनके मुकाबले के बहुत कम देश में हैं इन्होंने भाउक तरीके से अपनी बाते कही है, मैं कुछ बातें खुलकर कह रहा हूं, आपने वो बातें दबी जबान में कही हैं, पर कुछ शंका नहीं रखी है समय बीतता जा रहा है देश के लिए नहीं, समय बीतता जा रहा है पब्लिक रिप्रेजेंटेटिव के लिए कि वो कितना खरा उतरता है, वो कितना योगदान कर पाता है, या वह पार्लियामेंट या संसदीय व्यवस्था के उपर इतना कुठाराघात करता है के जनता का उस पर विश्ववास नहीं है, कि मुद्दे संसद में नहीं, संसदीय व्यवस्था में नहीं उसके बाहर तय होंगे, ये हमारे लिए एक अच्छी बात नहीं है, मुझे समझ में नहीं आता और सामान्य आदमी को भी नहीं आता इसमें कोई बहुत विद्वान होने की आवश्यकता नहीं है, मैं विद्वान बिलकुल भी नहीं हूं हम बातचीत से दूर कैसे हट सकते हैं, दूसरे की बात सुनने का मतलब ये नहीं है कि उसकी बात मान ली गई है पर ऐसा क्या की बात ही नहीं सुनेंगे, ये मैं हालात जब भी सदन चलता है रोज़ देखता हूं, मुझे बहुत पीड़ा होती है, लोग

Our power corridors have been fully sanitized of these menacing power brokers, no one can take leverage of decision these days.

ऐसी परिस्थिति में हम और आगे बढ़ने का काम क्यों न करें, यदि अगर पब्लिक रिप्रेजेंटेटिव यदि ठान लें तो इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं है मुझे, भारत की छलांग और भी ज्यादा तीव्र हो जायेगी, छोटे मोटे राजनितिक फायदे के लिए देश की संस्थाओं को कलंकित करने की प्रवृत्ति है, मैं अंकुश की बात नहीं कर रहा उसको सोचना चाहिए आपको आश्चर्य होगा, दुनिया के किसी भी देश के विद्यार्थी विदेश में हैं उनके प्रोफ़ेसर विदेश में हैं सिवाय भारत के और किसी देश के नागरिक अपने देश की, मैं बहुत गलत शब्द कर रहा हूं, ऐसी तैसी नहीं करते, ऐसा क्यों हो रहा है।

Friends, I've taken enough time, in conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the participants, speakers and organisers who contributed to the richness of discussions and insights in this conference. The collective dedication to strengthen democratic principles and governance is a testament to the unwavering commitment to the wellbeing and progress of our nation. Let us collectively endeavour to create a brighter and more prosperous future for all.

I will leave you with Dr. BR Ambedkar’s observations: “The Constitution can only provide the organs of the state such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, the factors on which working of those organs of the state depend are the people and the political parties.”

I leave you with this thought. I'm grateful to Dr. CP Joshi for affording me this valuable opportunity to be in City of Lakes- a great place- and to share my thoughts with those, each of whom is a nerve centre, epicentre of big change.

Thank you so much!

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MS/RC



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