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Vice President says representing people in legislatures can’t be part-time

Vice President says representing people in legislatures can’t be part-time

Elaborating on the importance of legislatures, Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman M.Venkaiah Naidu has asserted that the legitimacy of legislators and lawmaking bodies is critical for effective functioning of parliamentary democracy backed by the much-neededtrust and confidence of the people. Noting that legislatures are the instruments of according legitimacy for the decisions of both the executive and the judiciary, he raised the prospect of the very legitimacy of legislatures coming into question if they are dysfunctional and law makers do not enjoy the respect of the people they represent.

Speaking to the present and former legislators of Goa on the occasion of the ‘Legislators Day’ in Panaji today, Naidu urged the law makers to ensure the legitimacy of the law making bodies through ideal behavior and effective functioning both within and outside the Houses. He suggested to the law makers to do so by equipping them with six attributes that would make a significant difference.

The Vice President said; “It is the functioning of legislatures and law making bodies that can either make or mar any democracy. Their effective functioning forms the basis of people’s trust and confidence in parliamentary institutions. Unfortunately, there is a certain trust deficit with people’s perceptions about the legislators and legislatures being in the negative based on what they get to see and hear. This deficit needs to be addressed at the earliest.”

Urging the law makers to accord priority for the good and welfare of the people instead of being preoccupied with personal vocations and interests and empowerment of self, Naidu stressed that “Representing people is not a part-time activity and it shall be the prime responsibility if not fulltime. Proper commitment to the cause of the people flows from getting priorities right. Those who have no time for people better not enter the legislatures.”

Outlining the other positive attributes expected of law makers, Naidu urged them to develop strong connect with the people they represent to properly assess and understand their difficulties and aspirations; right conduct both in public and inside the legislatures; character based on moral integrity; capacity to understand the emerging complexities and deliver and communication skills for effective communication with the people and all other stakeholders.

The Vice President said; “Any legislature is as good as its members. Legitimacy of both of them are interdependent as each of them draw sustenance from the other.” He further noted that any legislator modelled on these six positive attributes would most certainly like the House to ‘Discuss, Debate and Decide’ so that she/he can make useful contribution rather than being disrupted and that is the difference that able legislators can make to the functioning of legislatures.

Naidu observed; “Any legislator has the option of either supporting the government or opposing it. Informed opposition to the government’s proposals in fact does a certain good but opposing for the sake of doing it does harm.”

The Vice President complimented the people and successive governments of Goa for the emergence of the State as the most developed in the country with the highest Per Capita Income in the country and the best human development indicators since it’s liberation from the colonial rule 60 years back after a long drawn struggle. However, referring to Goa having had as many as 30 governments during the 57 years since the first elections in 1963, Naidu said that it is a huge number by any reckoning and it is difficult to justify such a political flux which results in negative perception. He raised the question of “Would Goa have done much better with more political stability. I expect all stakeholders and in particular, the legislators to deeply reflect on this issue as you have to find answers to the challenges that the State has to overcome if it is to retain its frontline position.”

Naidu further noted that 11 of these 30 governments had tenure of less than one year each ranging from 6 days to 334 days and another three governments lasted for less than two years each. Only three governments ran full term. Alongside, Goa was placed under President’s Rule five times for as many as a total of 639 days which was about two years.

Noting that mining, the main growth driver of Goa reaching saturation, limited availability of land for industrialization and mounting ecological concerns as the major hurdles for sustained economic development, the Vice President underlined the need for the State to prepare for harnessing the opportunities offered by the ‘new economy’ in Information Technology, Biotechnology, Start Up entrepreneurship etc by promoting required skilled manpower resources.

The Governor of Goa Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister of Goa, Dr. Pramod Sawant, Speaker, Goa Assembly, Rajesh Patnekar, Deputy Speaker Isidore Fernandes, Minister for Legislative Affairs, Govt of Goa, MawinGodinho,Leader of Opposition in Goa Assembly, Digambar Kamat, Secretary of Goa Legislators Forum Mohan Amshekar, Secretary Goa Legislative Assembly Smt. Namrata Ulman, Ministers and Members of the Goa Legislative Assembly were among the dignitaries who attended the event.

Following is the full test of the speech-

2.         It gives me immense pleasure to be with all of you and in the scenic State of Goa at the beginning of the 60th year of liberation of the State from the colonial rule. I am also delighted to meet the Members of the Legislative Assembly on the occasion of 50th Legislators Day. As the English New Year has just begun, I take this opportunity to convey my best wishes and greetings to all of you and the proud people of Goa.

3.         The last year got off to a notorious start with the outbreak of novel corona virus that resulted in the Covid-19 pandemic which played havoc with the lives and livelihoods of the people across the globe cutting across socio-economic and geographical boundaries. We ushered in this year with a certain sense of hope further to the success of spirited efforts of the scientists both within and outside of our country in coming out with vaccines. There is a certain relief all across and I hope that we will be able to leave the dark memories of the last year behind as early as possible.

4.         During the last year, India rose to the occasion as one collective entity in handling the pandemic with considerable results. Given the status of the health infrastructure in the country, the demographic conditions and the socio-economic inequalities, India was expected to be severely impacted in terms of case load and mortalities and the consequences. However, due to the national resolve demonstrated, we could contain the scale of damage remarkably and it is being acknowledged both within and outside the country.

5.         I am particularly happy to note that the Government and the people of Goa did remarkably well in handling the pandemic and in the process emerged as an example for others.

6.         As the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, it gives me immense pleasure to interact with legislators from different parts of the country as it gives an opportunity to exchange views on the functioning of our legislatures and share our concerns. This interaction with the legislators of Goa is one more such occasion and I am happy to be with all of you.

7.         Before I touch upon the core issues of relevance to the legislators, I would like to briefly reflect on significance of liberation of Goa from the colonial rule of the Portuguese on December 19, 1961. It is because our past offers guidance to the present and the future as well. The Goans became proud Indians after a long 450  years of colonial rule. The liberation of Goa, about 14 years after India’s independence from the British colonial rule has a special significance as it marked the end of the presence of any foreign ruler on our soil. The struggle for liberation of Goa was long drawn as was the case with our fight against the British. From the first protests against the Portuguese by the Pintos in 1787 i.e. 277 years after invasion of Goa, the liberation movement had seen many ups and downs. Several leaders of the liberation movement and the protesting people were subject to the worst form of suppression and repression by the colonial rulers. The movement gained momentum and strength as the fight against the British peaked during the 30s and 40s of the last century. The hopes of liberation of Goa parallel to the exit of British could not come true for various reasons. Diplomatic efforts of the Government of independent India for making Goa part of India did not bear fruit. The force of aspirations of the Goans for liberation and becoming Indians finally lead to military action resulting in their liberation. Since then, the people of Goa have been shaping their own history and I am happy to note that it has been a success story so far.

8.         As Goa entered the 60th year of liberation, I take this opportunity to pay my homage to the leaders of the long drawn liberation movement and the people who had suffered the worst in their quest for freedom and for being the masters of their own destiny.

9.         Goa is the smallest state in the country in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population. I am glad to note on this occasion that Goa has been the front runner on the march of development with highest Per Capita Income and the best human development parameters. Goa is also the most urbanized State in the country with over 62% of its people living in towns and cities. Known for its blue skies and the golden palm fringed beaches, Goa is also called as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and is rightly among the most preferred tourist destinations in the world.

10.       I compliment all the successive governments and the people of Goa for their remarkable journey since liberation and for being the most developed state in the country.

11.       While it is a challenge to reach the pinnacle as Goa did, it is an equally formidable challenge to hold on to that position by avoiding any slippages. This is where the state faces news challenges. Tourism and mining have been the main drivers of the Goa’s success story. Limitations of land availability, mounting ecological concerns and mining reaching its saturation are the big impediments for further industrial development of the state. I am told the agricultural productivity is an issue in the state. Goa has now to look for diversification of its growth engines by seizing the opportunities being offered by the ‘new economy’ in the domains of Information Technology, Bio-Technology, start-up entrepreneurship etc. All these require highly skilled manpower which the State needs to build in quick time. I am sure the state government under the leadership of young Chief Minister Dr. Sawant is already seized of these challenges and working on appropriate solutions.

12.       After referring to the development story of Goa and the challenges ahead, I now like to make a reference to the functioning of democracy in the state. I do so as this has a direct bearing on the role and responsibilities of the legislators.

13.       As I was preparing for this occasion, I have realized that since the first elections in 1963 after liberation, Goa has had as many as 30 governments during the last 57 years. This is quite a huge number by any reckoning.  11 of these 30 governments had tenure of less than one year each ranging from 6 days   to 334 days. Another three governments lasted for less than three years. Only three governments ran full term of five years each. Alongside, the state was placed under President’s Rule for as many as five times for a total of 639 days which is about two years.

14.       While change of governments mid-course for genuine and compelling reasons is democratically sanctioned, frequent such changes raises the issue of political stability and the ability of governments to deliver. Though Goa has done well as referred to by me earlier despite such frequent changes of governments, it is difficult to justify such political flux. This results in negative perceptions.  The question that I would like to raise is  – Would Goa have done much better with more political stability ? I expect all stakeholders and in particular, the legislators assembled here to deeply reflect on this issue as you have to find answers to the challenges that the state has to overcome if it is to retain its frontline position.

15.       I now come to the issue of the role and responsibilities of legislators and issues concerning in the functioning of our democracy.

16.       As civilizations advanced, democracy has come to be accepted as the best possible way of governing public affairs based on the expressed will and intentions of the people. Prescribed Constitutional methods guide the functioning of democracies with clear separation of powers among the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Legislatures are the instruments of according legitimacy to the decisions and actions taken on behalf of and for the betterment of the lives of the people by the executive.  Even the judicial pronouncements draw their legitimacy from the laws made by the legislatures. Legislatures also sanction the broad course of nation building by outlining the contours of socio-economic development and transformation. Such is the importance of legislatures in democracy.

17.       The basic functions of a legislature include; making laws, ensuring the accountability of the executive of the day and deliberating on the issues of larger public concern and welfare. The representative and deliberative functions of legislators flow from this broad architecture and accordingly, determines the role and responsibilities of legislators.

18.       If legislatures are mandated with legitimizing the decision making process, the very legitimacy of legislatures is critical for effective functioning of democracy. Such legitimacy is derived from effective functioning of the law making bodies which in turn is critically dependent on the legislators. Legislators in this context also includes the political executive (Ministers) who are drawn from the members of the law making bodies. It is the functioning of legislators and the law making bodies that can either make or mar any democracy. Their effective functioning forms the basis of people’s trust and confidence in parliamentary institutions. Unfortunately, there is a certain trust deficit with people’s perceptions about the legislators and the legislatures being in the negative based on what they get to see and hear. This deficit needs to be addressed at the earliest so that India, the world’s largest democracy can stand even taller with its head held high. So, the question is what is to be done in this regard ?.

19.       keeping in view the spirit of the ‘Legislators Day’ today, let us understand how the law makers can make a difference to enhance the functioning of legislatures, and there by their legitimacy. They can do so through proper connect, conduct, character, commitment, capacity and communication. I would like to briefly touch upon these 6 ‘C’s.

i. Connecting with the people

As elected representatives of the people, legislators shall ever remain connected with the people so as to fully understand their problems and aspirations for effectively articulating them in the legislatures for necessary initiatives and interventions. Your visits to the constituencies shall be regular, well planned and meaningful instead of being ritualistic. People should have easy access to their representatives and the technological advances have made it much more easier now. With 40 MLAs for a population of about 16 lakhs, each of you represent about 40,000 people, much smaller than is the case in several ohter States. You should be owned by the people of your constituency. This kind of connect with the people enhances their respect for the legislature.

ii. Conduct

            This is all about your behavior  which is in evidence in public and in various situations and contexts. Your mannerisms, your body language, facial expressions, the way you speak, the way you receive people and talk to them, the way you hold yourself in testing situations, your sense of balance and proportion, your calmness, your sense of fairness etc. are all effective messages to the people. Your conduct either takes you closer to the people or drives them away. If you allow any negative relationship to emerge and grow, it harms both you and the institution of which you are a privileged member. Your positive conduct enhances the image of the legislature.

iii. Character

            Character is all about mental and moral qualities that are distinct to every individual. These include your values, beliefs, ethos, judgment of right and wrong which form the foundation of your personality. There are only two options of personifying either right character or wrong one. Unfortunately, the people’s perception is that right character among the politicians is in short supply and this erodes the people’s trust in our parliamentary institutions. Legislators are supposed to empower the people and not empower themselves. The guiding principle is that you have to subjugate self-interest to that of larger interest. Such enlightened approach adds to the stature of law making bodies.

iv. Commitment

            For a legislator, the priority consideration shall be the good of the people he represents and that of the State and the nation. He or she should not be too preoccupied with personal vocations or interests. Representing people is not a part time activity and is shall be the prime responsibility if not full time. Proper commitment to the cause of the people flows from getting priorities right. Those who have no time for people better not enter the legislatures.

v. Capacity

            Doing justice to the cause of the people demands a certain capacity to deliver. It calls for ability to work with the people, civil society, executive and all other stakeholders. In particular, the capacity to understand the emerging complexities, identify the challenges and offer solutions. It also calls for mobilization of people for resolving difficult issues through deliberations and shared understanding and by evolving the most acceptable positions. Every legislator should strive towards such capacity building for enhanced performance.

vi. Communication

            A legislator, by implication is a leader and needs to be a good communicator to be an effective leader. She/he should be able to analyse various issues and situations and communicate accordingly with the people and all others concerned. Good communication skills lends a certain degree of charisma which is one of the leadership attributes.

20.       Every legislator shall be equipped with these six attributes as they enhance effectiveness of functioning both within and outside the legislators. sAny legislature is as good as its members. Legitimacy of both of them are inter-dependent as each of them draw sustenance from the other. The point that I am seeking to make is that legislators have a critical role in enhancing the standing of law making bodies among the people. Legislators can make substantial difference to the negative perception by being ideal in their conduct and character by setting high standards, by matching their promises with performance, by acting as effective bridges between the people and the governments.

21.       A right thinking legislator modeled on these positive attributes will never be a party to the distressing scenario of disrupting the proceedings of the House. He would most certainly like the House to ‘Discuss, Debate and Decide’ every issue so that he/she can make meaningful contribution, being equipped to do so. That is the difference that able legislators can make to the functioning of the legislatures, which is the need of the hour. Any legislator has the option of either supporting the government or opposing it. Informed opposition to the government’s proposals in fact does a certain good but opposing for the sake of doing it does harm.

22.       India and the world are passing through difficult times with the COVID-19 pandemic compounding the situation caused by the economic slide that was unfolding even earlier. Vaccines do offer the hope of shielding the people from the disease but return to the potential economic growth trajectory calls for determined efforts. The Government of India has been taking a series of reforms to unleash the growth potential since only a robust economic growth can help in meeting the aspirations of the people. The legislators across the country have an important responsibility of seriously reflecting in respective legislatures on the challenging situation that the country is facing and mounting a national effort to come out of it at the earliest.

23.       I am glad to have got this opportunity of sharing my thoughts and concerns on the role and responsibilities of legislators and how they can make a difference to the functioning of our law making bodies in the larger national interest.

24.       I once again compliment the people of Goa on the eve of celebration of the 60th year of the liberation of the State. Wish you all Happy Pongal, Makara Sankranti and English New Year !

Jai Hind!