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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rajya Sabha ..... ......... train travel !!

Do you know what brackets this 12 together – Mr Sambhaji Chhatrapati; Mr Swapan Das Gupta; Mrs Roopa Ganguly; Mr Ranjan Gogoi, Dr Narendra Jadhav, Ms Mary Kom, Dr  Sonal Mansingh,  Dr Raghunath Mahaptra, Mr Ram Shakal, Mr Rakesh Sinha, Mr Suresh Gopi,  & Dr Subramanian Swamy !

Former Prime Minister and JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda, as well as the former leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, were among the four candidates for Rajya Sabha from Karanataka who were on Friday declared elected unopposed.  The state's ruling BJP sent to Parliament two MPs -  Ashok Gasti and Eranna Kadadi. According to reports, the 87-year-old Deve Gowda agreed to rise up to the occasion since the Congress assured him support as the JD(S)' votes alone would not have been sufficient to ensure his representation.

The ‘Council of States’ which is also known as Rajya Sabha, a nomenclature that was announced by the chair in the House on the 23rd August, 1954 has its own distinctive features. The origin of the second Chamber can be traced to the Montague-Chelmsford Report of 1918. The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for the creation of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature with a restricted franchise which actually came into existence in 1921. The Governor-General was the ex-officio President of the then Council of State. The Government of India Act, 1935, hardly made any changes in its composition.

 The Constituent Assembly, which first met on 9 December 1946, also acted as the Central Legislature till 1950, when it was converted as ‘Provisional Parliament’.  During this period, the Central Legislature which was known as Constituent Assembly (Legislative) and later Provisional Parliament was unicameral till the first elections were held in 1952.

Extensive debate took place in the Constituent Assembly regarding the utility or otherwise of a Second Chamber in Independent India and ultimately, it was decided to have a bicameral legislature for independent India mainly because a federal system was considered to be most feasible form of Government for such a vast country with immense diversities.  A single directly elected House, in fact, was considered inadequate to meet the challenges before free India.  A second chamber known as the ‘Council of States’, therefore, was created with altogether different composition and method of election from that of the directly elected House of the People.  It was conceived as another Chamber, with smaller membership than the Lok Sabha (House of the People).  It was meant to be the federal chamber i.e., a House elected by the elected members of Assemblies of the States and two Union Territories in which  States were not given equal representation.  Apart from the elected members, provision was also made for the nomination of twelve members to the House by the President. 

The minimum age of thirty years was fixed for membership as against twenty-five years for the Lower House.  The element of dignity and prestige was added to the Council of State House by making the Vice-President of India ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha who presides over its sittings. Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament.  A person to be qualified for the membership of the Rajya Sabha should posses the following qualifications:

1.         he must be a citizen of India and make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution;
2.         he must be not less than 30 years of age;
3.         he must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.

The representatives of the States and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the method of indirect election.  The representatives of each State and two Union territories are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory, as the case may be, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The Electoral College for the National Capital Territory of Delhi consists of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, and that for Puducherry consists of the elected members of the Puducherry Legislative Assembly.

The present salary of the member is Rs.1,00,000/- pm + daily allowance per day for attending the session.  Constituency Allowance ` 70,000/- p.m. is further payable during the whole term of office as member, Rajya Sabha.  There are other heads like 4. Office Expense Allowance `60,000/- p.m and Travelling allowance.  Travelling Allowance is paid  for attending a Session of Rajya Sabha or a Meeting of a Committee or for the purpose of attending to any other business connected with his/her duties as a Member from his/her usual place of residence (UPR) to the place of duty and back is admissible.  One free non-transferable Railway pass which entitles the Member alone or with spouse to travel in first class air-conditioned or Executive class by any train in India along with a companion in AC two tier. A Member having no spouse may be accompanied by any person in place of the spouse in the same class in addition to the facility of one companion in AC two tier.  RS perks

At a time when economy has been in a slump over several quarters, the Rajya Sabha secretariat paid Rs 8 crore to the Indian Railways as expenses incurred by Rajya Sabha members with free travel. As the bill for 2019 was higher than usual, the Railways blamed it on serious malpractices by the MPs. It was found that Rajya Sabha members have been found misusing the perks and privileges they enjoy and in complete disregard of the ongoing national crisis, much of the public money was wasted. This has forced the Rajya Sabha secretariat to issue a stern note of caution that in case of future violations, deductions will be made from their salaries. A former MP had booked 63 train tickets in the month of January 2019 but travelled only on seven of those tickets. He sought reimbursement for all the 63 tickets, costing Rs.1,69,005. The cost of the seven tickets he used is only Rs.22,085. Government had to bear the extra cost of Rs.,46,920.   The leader (name withheld) was a CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal. RS MP train

The Rajya Sabha secretariat has found several instances of MPs and former lawmakers booking multiple tickets and not availing of them yet seeking reimbursement. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu had directed the Rajya Sabha secretariat to look into the issue after it was brought to his notice. In another case, that of a sitting member of Rajya Sabha, the officials found that the person had undertaken a journey only on 15% of the tickets bought in January 2019 but sought reimbursement for all tickets.

Shri N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar was the first Leader of the RS from May 1952.  The recent leaders have been Mr Jaswant Singh (1999-2004); Dr Manmohan Singh (2009 – 2014) and Mr Arun Jaitley (2014 - … )

~ those 12 names mentioned are the nominated members of the Rajya Sabha.  Last year the tenure of veteran actress Rekha and famous Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s RS tenure came to an end.  The two had been nominated in 2012 but faced severe criticism over their low attendance record.

During her six-year tenure, Rekha did not introduce any bill, nor did she ask any question in the House. She has been a part of the Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution committee, as per the Rajya Sabha website. When Sachin and Rekha were nominated to the House of Elders in 2012, there were several questions raised over the selection procedures.

India is a democracy

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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