Mainstream, VOL LII, No 43, October 18, 2014
Let us March in Step with the Life Outside
Monday 20 October 2014, by
It has been my privilege and honour to have belonged to this House for a quarter of a century. But it is not for me to say what role I have played from the standpoint of which I have worked in this House. However, I have tried, to the best of my ability, to serve my country, our great people, to uphold its cherished culture, our noble inheritance from an undying, ancient civilisation.
It is not an individual who shines in this House. We have shone in this House collectively. Each of us has succeeded to the extent to which we have shared in this House the urges and aspirations of our people, men and women who live in mud huts and slums, in agony and misery, in unemployment, in destitution, illiteracy and disease. It is by sharing their sorrow and suffering and yet giving expression to their indomitable urge for a better and brighter future that we justify, all together, in mutual cooperation and brotherly friendship, our existence in this House.
If you ask me, “What has been your best asset in the work of the House?”, if it is outside, I will say, “My faith in the people and the inspiration from them”, if it is inside the House, “It is the affection of my colleagues in this House.” Nothing has been more cherished by me than the unfailing and abiding affection, at times almost bordering on undue indulgence, that has been give to me. I will ever remember this thing with a sense of pride and gratitude as a matter of inspiration.
In this House when I came, there were many illustrious people, many eminent in their own right in various walks of public life. Today it gives me a little pain when I am here alone with none of those with me who entered on the first day in this House when I joined it.
The words that have been spoken for me, well, these are extremely kind words. But I have my doubt, and I think that I am right in my doubt, whether at all I deserve them. After all, what is important from you and others is your affection and I do not think any one of us, at least certainly not me, is entitled to all that you have said, because I say that here our achievement has been a collective achievement. I have always felt that the Rajya Sabha must be a vibrant tribune of the People.
And from the first day when I came—may I share a thought with you?—there were some people here who thought of cutting the role of the House of Lords for us, although none of us came by way of heredity or as peers. But people thought that the Westminster style would be most suitable, if that was not acceptable, let us go to the American Senate. But thanks to the genius of our people, the tradition of our freedom movement, the wisdom of our members now both inside and outside the House, and I must say, thanks to Dr Radhakrishnan, Jawaharlal Nehru and others, we did not accept the position of being a House to echo what goes on in the other House.
We are a House in our own right asserting our own individuality, our own character as a vibrant living tribune of Parliament. Call us Second Chamber, if you like. I do not know who decided it that we are a Second Chamber. We are a Chamber all right. But who says it is a Second Chamber? It is one of the two Chambers which constitute Parliament. That is all. Some people call us the Upper House. I do not know which is the Lower House and how suddenly we became Upper. I do not understand it. Now all these are borrowed phraseology from the West, and we have no contempt for that. I think we are the Rajya Sabha and the other the Lok Sabha. Finally, I should like to say that we have in this House built some great traditions. Here—perhaps our number is small—we have always held together despite our quarrels, exchanges, stormy scenes, as if we are members of a family. That family-mindedness in this Chamber has been a great inspiration for all of us. We have not sought ourselves in a crowd; we have sought ourselves in the image of others mutually helping each other, whether you sit in the Opposition or on Government benches. That is another aspect of this House.
I must in this connection go on record that we have truly cherished the cooperation of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. I have found through 25 years how useful it is with the Secretariat, the members of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, all the members of the staff, the people who stand here, the people who type our notices and those others who look after our papers, all of them, each in his own way, have contributed to the building up of the noble traditions that we have got in this House now. Our House symbolises a spirit of cooperation. And it is undoubtedly a matter of great joy for us that we are speaking and talking members but the members of our Rajya Sabha Secretariat—every one of them, I do not exclude anyone—I take them as the silent, cooperative members of our institution. I cannot think that the majority and style of this institution is advanced without taking into account the contribution which they have made. These are some of the words I wanted to put on record.
I must again thank all my friends for the kindness they have shown. I do sincerely hope I shall never be failing in doing my duty to get some of your kindness, some of your affection, if you like I may say so, and I should say even some of your institution. I cannot think that you will put up with the age a little and have a little sympathy for an ageing man, because after all when I came here I was 25 years younger; today I am 25 years older. And in these 25 years much has happened in the life of the nation to teach us all and I may hope the Rajya Sabha will rise to the occasion, serving the people better than it has and become truly an instrument of social change and service to the toiling masses, it will uphold the majesty and greatness and the brilliance and beauty of our nation, it will be the spokesman of the great heritage of our undying and unfailing culture.
I hope in this House India’s voice will be heard, the voice of the millions which, after all, in the final analysis, makes Parliament what it is, gives it character and quality. Our rapport with the people is our greatest asset and I do hope all of us will cooperate collectively, work for building up bolder ties with the masses, seek counsel with them and give full expression in policies and otherwise to the urges that inspire them, the urges that set them in majestic historic motions. We are on the march and let us, in this House, march in step with the life outside.
Thank you again and all others—my esteemed and dear colleagues—for the kind words they have spoken about me.