Members suggest equal representation of states in RS

According equal representation to states and scraping time limit to speak in debates in the House were some of the suggestions made by members during the landmark 250th session of the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Some members alleged that the legislative powers of the Upper House of Parliament were under attack.

Participating in a special discussion on the "Role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity and the Need for Reforms", Bhupender Yadav of the BJP sought to counter former prime minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of scrutiny of Bills by Select Committees of the Rajya Sabha.

"Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was saying that the Select Committees should have a higher influence on the (Upper) House. I would like to point out, since I believe he (Manmohan) is one of the senior-most members of this House, perhaps wrong facts have been presented to him," Yadav said.

The previous Congress government had referred only five bills, while this government has sent 17 bills to Select Committees.

"This is more than three times than the Congress government," he added.

Congress leader and Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said now the Bills are being sent to Select Committees after demands from the Opposition.

Manmohan Singh had said, "For our chamber (Rajya Sabha) to fully function, it is required that we scrutinise the bills more thoroughly in committees (Parliamentary), where not only the members can apply their mind, even the opinion of stakeholders can be solicited."

He told the House that in 16th Lok Sabha, only 25 per cent of the bill introduced were referred to committees, which is much less than 71 per cent and 60 per cent in 15th Lok Sabha and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.

He said, "I would assert that regardless of what other House does, it is crucial for our House to form select committees to ensure that the bill receive detailed scrutiny that they deserve."

Samajwadi Party's Ram Goyal Yadav called for higher representation from smaller states in the Upper House, suggesting that at least six members must represent a state in the Rajya Sabha, no matter how small it is, citing the example of the northeast.

He also suggested that even matters related to the judiciary should be discussed in the House.

Prasanna Acharya of the BJD said the representation of states should not be on the basis of population. He also said that the electoral college needs to be reformed.

"There should be no interference by the central government or any government in nomination (of members to the Upper House). Let the President of India be given exclusive independence to nominate as per his own choice all the 12 nominated members to this House," Acharya suggested.

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray of the All India Trinamool Congress alleged that the legislative powers of Rajya Sabha were under attack because many bills are termed as money bills.

In an apparent reference to West Bengal, Ray said, "What is happening in our state, the governor says anything at any time. If you want to do politics, do politics, but do not become a "Rajneetipal" from "Rajyapal" (governor)".

AIADMK's A Navaneethakrishnan observed that obstruction of proceedings of the House cannot be stretched or taken to the extent of an entire session or entire day.

Other members including K Keshava Rao of the Telangana Rajya Samiti (TRS), Biswajit Daimary (BPF) and Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP) also highlighted the significance of the House and gave suggestions towards further improvement in its functioning.

Tiruchi Siva of DMK said the sitting of the Rajya Sabha should be extended to 100 days so the members get more time to speak.

Siva also suggested that private members' bills, which are slated on Fridays, should be taken up on weekdays.

AAP's Sanjay Singh also said that smaller parties get a time limit of three minutes or five minutes to speak in any debate and this time limit should be finished.

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