NEW DELHI: Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday urged members of Parliament to stand by people amid the pandemic and discuss all issues related to it in the House to address the concerns of the citizens.
Chairing a meeting of leaders of various parties and groups in the Rajya Sabha, ahead of the Monsoon Session beginning from Monday, he also asked the leaders to ensure a smooth and productive session.
“A dysfunctional Parliament adds to the prevailing gloom and hence all sections of the House should ensure a smooth and productive session as it offers an opportunity to address the concerns of the people affected by COVID-19,” he told the leaders.
Noting that the second wave of COVID-19 infection sprang several surprises and severely tested India’s health infrastructure, Naidu said parliament is the right forum to get updated about various aspects of fighting the disease and benefit from ground-level experiences of members of the House from different states.
This is important in the context of a possible third wave of infections which is being talked about a lot, he said.
About the agenda for the monsoon session, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Prahlad Joshi informed the meeting that the government has identified 29 Bills, including six ordinance-replacing bills, and two items of financial business during the session.
The Parliamentary Affairs minister sought the cooperation of all parties for enabling the smooth running of the session.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge proposed issues of broader concerns for discussion in the House.
These included the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the economy, employment and poverty, strong potential of a third wave and preparedness against it, ongoing farmers’ agitation, issues related to cooperative federalism, China’s actions along the border and matters pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar suggested a discussion on the Afghanistan situation following the withdrawal of US troops and its implications.
TMC’s Derek O’Brien called for more scrutiny of Bills by the parliamentary committees.
Other leaders stressed the need for smooth functioning of the House and suggested adequate time be allocated for state-specific issues and more time to regional and small parties.
Leaders of 20 parties spoke in the meeting and made various suggestions.
They also sought the cooperation of the government in taking up various issues of wider public concern.
In his opening remarks, Naidu complimented Piyush Goyal on being nominated as the Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha and said that he is no stranger to parliamentary coordination having been the deputy leader before the recent elevation.
Responding to the observations and suggestions, the Rajya Sabha chairman urged the Parliamentary Affairs ministers and other ministers to reach out to leaders of various parties before the commencement of the proceedings of the House for better coordination and smooth functioning.
“All issues can be discussed in the House but none should seek to force their own position on others,” Naidu said.
He also assured the regional and small parties that certain improvements have been ushered in time allocation and further improvement will be considered.
Besides Goyal, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw were among the 15 ministers who attended the hour-long meeting.