Speaking in the Rajya Sabha Monday, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said the role of the Upper House must not be undermined, and it should be allowed more time to study and debate Bills.
“In the 16th Lok Sabha, only 25% Bills were referred to committees as compared to 15th and 14th LS. Regardless of what the other House does, it is crucial for our House to form select committees to ensure Bills received go through detailed scrutiny,” Singh said.
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The Congress MP from Rajasthan said misuse of the Money Bill provision should be avoided. “We have seen instances of misuse of the Money Bill provision by the Executive, leading to the bypassing of the Rajya Sabha on important matters. Those in Treasury benches must ensure this is avoided,” Singh said.
“If not for the efforts of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Rajya Sabha would have been reduced to a mere revising House, relegated to a secondary position in the functioning of our democracy. He ensured the closest cooperation between the two Houses, and if that cooperation is not maintained, it will affect the working of our Constitution,” the former PM added.
Singh said the Rajya Sabha was a council of states, and hence it was all the more important that its voice was heard on the crucial issues of the day. “Converting Jammu and Kashmir to a Union territory has far-reaching consequences. The government should consult the council of states before such drastic measures can be considered by the House,” Singh said.
Earlier in the day, the former PM and former finance minister had come out with withering criticism of the NDA government on the state of India’s economy. Blaming the country’s tanking growth on the government’s “mala fide unless proven otherwise doctrine of governance”, Singh wrote in The Hindu that there was a spirit of distrust and helplessness around, which was stifling economic activity.
Singh also criticised the government for “hiding” economic data. “Shooting down messengers of bad news or shutting off economic reports and data is juvenile and does not behove a rising global economic powerhouse. No amount of subterfuge can hide the performance and analysis of a $3-trillion market economy of 1.2 billion people. Economic participants respond to social and economic incentives, not diktats or coercions or public relations,” he said.
The former PM warned of more difficult times ahead unless corrective measures were taken, including stitching together the social fabric of the country. “Continued increase in inflation combined with stagnant demand and high unemployment will lead to what economists term as ‘stagflation’, a dangerous territory from which it becomes very hard for large economies to recover,” he said.
Singh also said India’s economy was slowing down at a time “when there is a unique and opportune moment in the global economy for India to capitalise”. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “set aside his deep-rooted suspicion of industrialists and entrepreneurs and nurse us back to a confident and mutually trustworthy society that can revive the animal spirits and help our economy soar.”