New Delhi, May 13 - Concern over repeated disruptions and the need for introspection dominated Parliament as it celebrated today the 60th year of its first sitting in independent India.
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.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set the tone for introspection as he flagged concerns in the Rajya Sabha over "repeated disruptions" and "unwillingness" for discussions.
Initiating the debate, he appealed to members to "write a new chapter and restore to it the sense of dignity and decorum that is expected of a House of Elders."
"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," the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said, "There is no doubt that one reason for India's growing global stature in the world is the country's unflinching commitment to pursuing a democratic path to achieving our social and economic salvation."
He underlined that it was "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."
The concerns come against the backdrop of disruptions taking a heavy toll on the functioning of Parliament in the last few years, with even last Winter Session getting washed out entirely.
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 disruptions 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.
Noting that there had been confrontation in the federal structure between various organs of the government and judiciary, executive and legislature, he said, however, "over the years we have evolved a system and (have been) able to find an amicable solution."
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.
She said the "journey of Parliament had not always been smooth or without challenges" and the anniversary "was also an occasion for reflection."
BJP leader L K Advani shared Mukherjee's views and said tolerance and understanding for each others' views and debates in Parliament can solve issues.
He said people, who were sceptical of a country of poor and illiterate people becoming a successful democracy, have been proved wrong as India has turned into a successful democracy in 60 years.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said a major challenge before the country was to improve polity and good governance.
He said once the norms of accountability improves, cynicism with regard to Parliament and parliamentary functioning would be brought to an end as there is no substitute to the credibility of parliamentary institution.
"Our conduct, our quality of debate, our ability to resolve differences and finally work in national interest is perhaps areas where people will judge us," he said.
Referring to the "experience of mid-1970s" (Emergency), he said fundamental rights were made "non-suspendable"...We learnt from our mistakes. We made the basic structure of our Constitution non-amendable so that nobody can tinker with it."
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said democracy should reach doorsteps of the poor and emphasised that only Parliament can take steps to stem the rot in the system as was done by "expelling members and even sending some to jail".
Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) said the House should take a pledge to fulfil the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi as farmers' suicides and hunger related deaths remain a major challenge for the country.
Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) said "though we have attained political freedom, parliamentarians have to strive hard to win social and economic independence for the masses."
Sudip Bandopadhyay (Trinamool) said Parliament should reflect upon the ideals of the national anthem and become "a representative Parliament, which is open and transparent, accessible, accountable and an effective House."
In an apparent reference to the controversy over holding of early general election which has now been denied by the Congress and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, he said "Parliament should continue for the full five-year term. We should ensure it is not dissolved in 13 days or 13 months as in the past. It leads to huge financial losses to the nation."
TKS Elangovan (DMK) said earlier the Prime Minister's assurances in the House used to be the law and the House has been "strongly divided but also solidly united" on issues. "We should restore that glory to the House."
Participating in the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said fundamental forces are strengthening and the right to dissent should be honoured as it is the spirit of democracy.
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) expressed fear over growing political cynicism and appealed that efforts should be made to raise high standards in Parliament to sustain public trust.
Echoing similar views, Mohan Singh (SP) said that efforts must be made to further strengthen the democracy.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said absenteeism by MPs is the concern of people and it should be addressed.
Pointing out about logjam and wastage of Parliament time, Tariq Anwar (NCP) said, "It has been said in this House that 30 per cent of time is wasted due to disruption. If we have to strengthen our democracy, we must debate on the issue without disruption." PTI