New Delhi:The Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman Shri Venkaiah Naidu today said that contrary to initial apprehensions and hesitancy, the corona induced confinement over the last four months has kept him morebusy and engaged than before. Shri Naidu further said it has been so possible as he could quickly reset his mind and defined a new normal to cope with the change.
Speaking at an event marking the completion of three years in office as Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Shri Naidu said that the functioning of Rajya Sabha has shown certain Winds of Change as evident in the consistently higher level of productivity and increased legislative output over the last few sessions and the attendance in the meetings of the Committees of Rajya Sabha crossing the 50% mark for the first time.
A publication titled “Connecting, Communicating, Changing” was released today by the Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh at an event organised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting at Uparashtrapati Bhawan. Minister of Information and Broadcasting Shri Prakash Javadekar released the electronic version of the publication. The Publications Division brought out the 251 page book with 334 pictorial illustrations about the range of engagements and activities of Shri Naidu during the last one year.
Shri Venkaiah Naidu said that before the corona induced confinement he had 20 engagements per month during which he spoke at over 70 public events and 14 convocation ceremonies. The Vice President said that by coming to terms with the confinement quickly he redefined the norms of engagement and made extensive use of technology platforms to connect with the people. Shri Naidu informed that he spoke to over 1600 people over phone individually sharing experiences of coping with the confinement and made extensive use of social media urging the people not to panic under the situation and instead make simple alterations in daily habits to deal with the situation. 350 tweets and 55 Facebook posts were used to reach out to the people with facts about the Corona Virus, its spread, the Covid pandemic and the ways of dealing with it besides several articles. Shri Naidu described this “Mission Connect” as very rewarding.
Referring to the functioning of Rajya Sabha over the last three years since his assumption of office on August 11, 2017, Shri Naidu gave evidence of what he called the winds of change in this regard.Presenting the context of his assumption of responsibility, Shri Naidu said that the research and analysis commissioned by him has revealed that the productivity of the House has been declining over the last 25 years with the House reporting annual productivity of 100% only once in 1999 during the last 20 years.
Shri Naidu informed that the overall productivityof the last eight sessions presided by him during the last three years has been 65.50%, despite the intervening election year seriously impacting the functioning of the House for three sessions. He informed that the productivity of Rajya Sabha was only 28.90% during the 248th session, 27.30% during the 247th and a low of 6.80% during the 248th session. As a result, the annual productivity of Rajya Sabha has been 35.75%, the lowest ever, he said.
The Chairman said that the functioning of the House subsequently was marked by sustained high levels of productivity of 104% during the 249th session, 99% during the historic 250th session and 76% during the last and 251st session. He said that this turn around resulted in average productivity of 78.42% during 2019, the highest since 2010.
Referring to improvement in legislative output as yet another indication of change, Shri Naidu said that out of the 93 Bills passed by Rajya Sabha during the last three years of his Chairmanship, 60 of them accounting for 65% of the total were passed during the last three sessions. He further said that despite the given composition of the House and stated positions of different parties, Rajya Sabha has passed some major Bills like the Triple Talaq Bill, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Bill.
Stating that the functioning of the eight Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees of Rajya Sabha has been an area of concern and focus for him, the Chairman informed about the improvements in this regard as further indication of the change. He said that the attendance in the meetings of these Committees has crossed the 50% mark for the first time during the last one year (since reconstitution in September, 2019). The attendance has been 50.73% during 2019-20 as against the average attendance of 42.90% during the two-year period of 2017-19. He also stated that the number of meetings of these Committees held without quorum has fallen to 10.20% during 2019-20 as against 38.77% during the previous year. The number of meetings held with attendance of over 50% has risen to 51.02% during 2019-20 from 14.28% during the previous year.
Chairman Shri Naidu thanked all sections of the House and leaders for the understanding shown and cooperation extended in improving the functioning of the House. He, however, referred to about 1/3rd of the functional time of the House lost due to disruptions during the last eight sessions and urged them to effectively address this disruption quotient.
Referring to celebration of the 75 years of independence of the country in 2022, Shri Naidu urged all individuals and institutions to give out their best for building a new India of the dreams of every aspiring citizen, inspired by the ideals of freedom struggle as propounded by Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders. He particularly urged the youth to more vigorously join the task of nation building.
Stating that it is the economic power that gives the required space and voice for India that it deserves to influence the course of global events, Shri Venkaiah Naidu urged all concerned to collectively endeavour to leave behind the economic disruption caused by the Covid pandemic and place the country on the much required high growth trajectory. Shri Naidu stressed on the need to fully meet the targets set for various sectors by 2022 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals by 2030.
The Vice President has lauded the recent initiatives of the Government to improve the ecosystem of governance, innovation and entrepreneurship besides removing various hurdles adversely impacting different sectors and the emphasis being laid on building a knowledge society. Citing the New Education Policy-2020 in this regard, Shri Naidu stressed on the need to promote mother tongue as the medium of instruction at least at the primary level. He also called for appropriate application of science to make agriculture more productive and create greater wealth for farmers.
Shri Venkaiah Naidu has stressed on converting Swaraj in to Su-raj (good governance) and for bridging the urban-rural divide besides reaching the fruits of development to all. Referring to the energetic efforts of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for transforming the nation, Shri Naidu called for a strong resolve and collective efforts to realise Shreshtha Bharat, Swastha Bharat and Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
The following is the full text of the speech:
I and Rajnath Ji belong to a generation that believed more in the real world while Prakash Ji is more at ease with the virtual reality. Change is the only constant of life. Virtual reality has emerged as the present day reality and it shows up in today’s event of releasing a publication on my last three years in office with very few participating physically. This is the new normal of life as we all seek to cope with the Corona Virus induced restrictions.
2. By inclination, I love to be with and amidst the people to the maximum extent possible. That is how I have lived over the last four decades of my public life till a new reality has come to stare at us in the form of the virus and the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. Honestly, the initial days of confinement since March, 25 this year has not been easy for me. Then, I took a deep breath and the reflected on the new reality and summoned the internal reserves to find the way forward. The answer was to stay calm and to reset the mind to define the new normal of life.
4. Today’s release of the publication is the 3rd in the series on my efforts and outcomes as the Vice President of India and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The publication titled “Connecting, Communicating and Changing”, primarily defines the contours of my mission and the outcomes.
5. The last one year since August, 2019 has been a mix of hectic public engagements over the first about eight months followed by the Corona induced uneasy slowdown. The first phase was marked by about 20 public engagements per month. I spoke at over 70 public events on a range of issues and addressed 14 convocations. My target groups have been; the farmers who are my first love, the youth including the students who are the future of our nation, the scientists and experts who offer solutions to a range of issues, the administrators, the captains of industry and the Indian diaspora while on foreign visits.
6. The main objective of connecting and communicating with these targeted groups was to share with them my experiences, concerns, my world view and the way forward for building a new India besides knowing their perspectives. It was all smooth till the virus broke out.
7. Since March this year, the ‘Mission Connect’ acquired a different dimension. With no travel and physical meetings, the only way to keep connected was through the medium of technology. As I came to terms with myself after initial hesitancy since the lockdown, I was keen to know as to how my old and long term acquaintances were coping with the corona threat. As these enquiries proved beneficial, I scaled up the mission. I reached out to over 1600 people including school, college and university mates, teachers, colleagues in public life over the last four decades, legislators including almost all the members of Rajya Sabha, media persons etc. This has been a very revealing and rewarding experience.
8. As the scale of viral infections kept growing and the myths and misinformation finding wider currency, I was keen to share verified and authenticated information regarding the virus, its spread, the disease, the precautions to be taken both to prevent it and overcome it. I was keen to make the people not panic and instead, make only a few changes in the daily habits. Social media came handy in this regard. I posted around 350 tweets and 55 facebook posts since April this year. I made good use of the time available to read widely about the viruses and the pandemics. This helped me write quite a few articles for both print and social media.
9. In essence, the Corona Virus induced confinement kept me more busy and engaged than before. The outcomes of this Mission Connect as the Vice President cannot really be quantified as there are no ways to do so.
10. I now come to my role as the Chairman of Rajya Sabha with the hope to share with you some numbers to know if anything has changed during the last three years.
11. In our polity, the public discourse on many issues is not often based on evidence. This applies to the debate on the functioning of Parliament including the Rajya Sabha. Last year, I have commissioned an analysis of the functioning of Rajya Sabha since it came into being in 1952. This first of its kind effort led to some major revelations like :
i. Out of the last 68 years, the Governments of the day did not have majority in the Rajya Sabha for 39 years including the stretch of last 31 years. This statistic is important as the composition of the House has a bearing on its functioning;
ii. The time spent on passing the Government Bills has remained almost the same over the years;
iii. However, the time spent on ensuring the accountability of the executive of the day through instruments including the Question Hour has shown a disturbing declining trend over the years;
iv. Time spent on the deliberative functioning of the House has been increasing reaching a record high of 36% of the total time of the House now as against 28% during 2004-14; and
v. More importantly, the productivity of the House has been steadily declining over the last 25 years. To further illustrate this declining productivity, Rajya Sabha has clocked annual productivity of 100% only once in 1999 during the last 20 years.
12. As a member of Rajya Sabha for 19 years, I am aware of its limitations and the frustrations of large sections of the House over persistent disruptions. As the Chairman, I ventured over the last three years to make a difference by adopting different ways of outreach to all concerned including in groups and individually.
13. Since assuming the office of Chairman of Rajya Sabha, I have presided over eight sessions beginning with the 244th. The average productivity of the House during this period comes to 65.50%.
14. Session-wise, four of the last eight sessions have clocked good productivity. It was 73% during the 246th session; 104% during 249th; 99% during the historic 250th session and 76% during the last 251st session.
15. As you all know, of the last three years, the Rajya Sabha functioned for one year under the shadow of elections in the run up to the general elections in 2019. This impacted the functioning of the House showing in productivity of 28.90% during the 245th session, 27.30% during the 247th and a low of 6.80% during the 248th session. As a result, Rajya Sabha has clocked annual average productivity of 35.75% during 2018, the lowest ever.
16. However, I did not let my optimism desert me and persisted with my Mission for Change. I am happy to report that the House clocked productivity of 78.42% during 2019, the best since 2010. The consistently high productivity during the last three sessions is a certain indication of Winds of Change.
17. During the last three years, Rajya Sabha passed a total 93 Bills including several far reaching ones. 60 Bills, amounting to 65% of the total were passed during the last three sessions. This further supports the visible Winds of Change in the form of improved legislative output.
18. The functioning of the eight Department Related Standing Committees of Rajya Sabha has been another area of my concern. I have been sharing the same with the Chairmen of those Committees and leaders of various parties. I am happy to report that the average attendance in the meetings of these Committees has for the first time crossed the 50% mark during 2019-20. It has been 50.73% as against the average attendance of 42.90% for the previous two years. Also, number of meetings held without quorum has fallen from 38.77% during 2018-19 to 10.20% during 2019-20. The number of meetings with over 50% attendance increased from 14.28% to 51.02% during this period. This is yet another confirmation of the Winds of Change that I was referring to.
19. Dispelling the apprehensions voiced in the Constituent Assembly over the need for Rajya Sabha, this august institutions has functioned as a constructive partner in legislating for the country’s transformation over the last seven decades. In line with this spirit, despite the composition of the House and stated positions, Rajya Sabha has recently passed certain major Bills like the Triple Talaq Bill, The Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment), Bill. The House has also witnessed quite a few quality debates and discussions.
20. Amidst the Winds of Change, I am aware that about one third of the valuable functional time of the House was lost due to disruptions during the last eight sessions. Collectively, all sections of the House need to strive to bring down this disruption quotient.
21. Whatever change was visible in the functioning of the Rajya Sabha, it was on account of the understanding shown and cooperation extended by the leaders and members of various parties. I compliment all of them for the same and urge them to do even more. We need to ensure that our Parliament and legislatures become more vibrant and robust by raising the standards and quality of debates as also by adopting a constructive approach.
22. As we are close to celebrating the 75 years of the independence of our nation in 2022, all of us need to remind ourselves of the inspiring ideals of the freedom struggle espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders. All individuals and institutions including the legislatures shall resolve to do their best to keep our nation in the forefront of the world leaders given our innate potential and capabilities to be so.
23. In the last few years, the Government has launched several initiatives to improve the ecosystem of governance, innovation and entrepreneurship besides removing various hurdles adversely impacting different sectors. Greater emphasis is being laid on building a knowledge society through promotion of science, research and excellence. The youth of the country must be motivated to join the developmental path more aggressively, while our scientists and researchers must come up with innovations and out-of-box concepts and solutions that address challenges like climate change. They must focus on making the lives of the people more comfortable. Science must also be used to make agriculture more productive and create greater wealth for farmers.
The revamping education by implementing New Education Policy will pave the way for a New India. Education is the foundation for nation building. We should ensure that children and youth of the country remain rooted to the Indian ethos and learn as many Indian language as possible especially mother tongue at the same time they should be global citizens.
Language should become a catalyst for inclusive development.We, in India, are fortunate to be heirs to a great linguistic tradition. Our country is a linguistic treasure house. Ours is a nation that is widely acknowledged for its extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity. The plurality and co-existence of multiple languages add color and vitality to our country and makes it unique. Our languages are a repository of our collective knowledge and wisdom which we have amassed over the course of the long journey of our vibrant civilization. We need to preserve our languages and culture.We must start by offering in our schools a curriculum in which the mother tongue of the learners is the medium of instruction at least at the primary level as suggested by New Education Policy.
24. We need to work with renewed vigour in trying to reach the goals set by us and in ensuring that various institutions become more robust and effective in discharging their functions. All efforts shall be made to realize the targets set for 2022 by the Government besides meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Poverty, illiteracy, inequality, gender discrimination, corruption and all other social evils shall be eradicated at the earliest through collective efforts. One has to bridge urban-rural divide and ensure that fruits of development reach everyone. Let us convert hard won Swaraj into all encompassing Su-raj (Good governance.)
25. In the present world order, it is the economic power built on its various supporting pillars that gives the space and voice to influence the course of events at the global level. Our country should realize it’s full economic potential to get its due place in the comity of nations. The economic disruption caused by the Covid Pandemic shall be put behind at the earliest to hit the high growth rate trajectory. This calls for resolve and united effort.
26. On this occasion, I would like to humbly submit that my ‘Mission Connect and Communicate’ over the last three years has been aimed at realizing this ‘Change’. We need to adopt a more positive attitude and strive hard to make the country economically stronger, stable and secure. Today, India is at a crucial transformatory moment. Led by the extraordinary dynamism of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Bhai Modi, the country as a team is taking rapid strides towards inclusive and sustainable development. If we can sustain the momentum and work together, we shall be able to unveil the Shresta Bharat, Samrudha Bharat, Swacha Bharat , Swasth Bharat and Atma Nirmar Bharat that we have been collectively dreaming of.
27. As I complete my third eventful year in office today, I eagerly look forward to return of normalcy so that I can restart my favourite activity— of interacting & mingling with people. Rest makes me restive. I feel invigorated & rejuvenated when I meet people from different walks of life—farmers, youth, scientists, social workers, young officers & entrepreneurs. Until the situation improves, let us all continue to take precautions like wearing masks & observing social distancing.
I would like to thank President, Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji for the greetings. I also thank Shri Rajnath Ji and Shri Javadekar Ji for being with us on this occasion. I appreciate the efforts of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, especially the Publication Division in bringing out this book.