Indian Parliament is 60

Indian Parliament

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New Delhi – Both houses of the Indian parliament observed the 60th anniversary of its first session on Sunday, May 13, 2012, marking the significant day for the largest parliamentary democracy in the world with special sittings, while Indian President Pratibha Patil and Vice President Hamid Ansari addressed a joint sitting of the parliament in the Central Hall on Sunday evening.

“As the world’s largest democracy, India can be proud that since winning its freedom and adopting a constitution, it has continuously walked the path of democracy,” said President Patil in her address to a joint session of both houses, the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and the Lower House (Lok Sabha).

Quoting Swami Vivekananda as saying, “Great things have been done in the past in this land, and there is both time and room for greater things to be done yet,” President Patil told lawmakers, “Until now, India has demonstrated its unflinching commitment to democracy through a consultative and participatory approach. Democracy cannot be allowed to falter, for it is the very essence of our nationhood.”

India attained independence from British rule in 1947 and became a republic on January 26, 1950, when its constitution came into effect. It held its first national elections in 1951-52 with the lower house, or Lok Sabha, holding its first session on May 13, 1952.

Speaking at the function to commemorate the 60th Anniversary, M. Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, quoted an Urdu couplet to address “skeptics amongst the citizen body, seeking faster outcomes in practical terms.”

Tere va’de par jiye hum, to yeh jaan, jhoot jana

         Kih khushi se mar na jate agar etibar hota

(Had I lived on your pledge, I would surely have lost life

Out of sheer joy and ecstasy, if I had believed in it.)

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Upper House, “One reason for our growing global stature in the world is our unflinching commitment to pursuing a democratic path to achieving our social and economic salvation.”

L.K. Advani, leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janta Party, said the key reason behind the success of democracy in India was the lawmakers’ respect for opposing ideologies, while Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar noted in her address, “The unflinching faith of the people of India in the cherished values of democracy forms the bedrock of our Parliamentary system.”

Kumar said that the journey so far has not been easy and smooth nor has it been a downward journey. She urged the members of Parliament to resolve that “the way ahead takes us to the new heights and our nation becomes strong and prosperous.”

Summing up his experience of six decades, Congress member nonagenarian Rishang Keishing, who has the rare distinction of having been a member of the first Lok Sabha in 1952, reminded his fellow lawmakers, “Speeches in Parliament used to be peaceful and constructive … Intervention used to be very cordial,” and urged members to follow the footsteps of former national leaders.

Prime Minister Singh echoed the sentiments, “I know that many people often feel frustrated by the disruption of Parliament. In our own way each one of us shares the blame for this state of affairs,” concluding, “We have to revive this tradition of reasoned and constructive debate in Parliament on the issues of the day. This is the only way to earn the people’s respect, lead public opinion and provide media with serious content that will raise the level of public discourse as in other mature democracies.”

Since its inception, the Indian Parliament has evolved as new technology has become available and today voting in parliament is done electronically. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have an integrated microphone management system. Every member’s seat has a voting console with colored buttons – green for “Aye”, red for “No” and yellow for “Abstain.” (IATNS)             

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