At the total expenditure of Rs 6,15,518.97 crore, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly just saw its biggest budget ever, as well as fireworks between the ruling BJP and the benches of the opposition Samajwadi party. But, behind the scenes, young and old, from all parties, have bonded over another development in the Chamber: the Assembly is becoming “paperless”.
Last week, the UP Assembly became only the second in the country, after Nagaland, to embark on NeVA (National e-Vidhan Application), through which all assemblies will be held on a single digital platform. The biggest in the country House took its first step toward going paperless with last year’s budgetbut now tablets have been installed on the desks of all 403 MPs to put questions, answers, archival documents, speeches and other documents at their fingertips.
If it’s not easy, it was enthusiastic, after a day-long training session on May 21. On May 24, as Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya stood up to read an answer to a question raised by SP MLA Devendra Pratap, President Satish Mahana reminded him: “The answer is already on the device. . Parha hua mana jaye (To be considered as read).
But when he wanted to ask for more time to debate the budget, Senior MLA Lalji Verma preferred to point to the physical copy of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly Rules, rather than its digital format.
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The youngest deputies – the current Assembly has up to 100 newcomers – have it easier. Like SP’s Ankit Bharti, who at 25 is as young as it gets. The MP for Saidpur, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, smiled saying that technology had been a great leveler for them when it came to their elders. “I didn’t know what was going on before, but the technology has put me at ease. Now there’s something I can help experienced MPs in.
While younger lawmakers like him could be seen lending a hand, apart from nervous experts at the government’s NIC (National Computer Center), President Mahana took it upon himself to convey technical terms in a profane language. When some MPs struggled to turn to the next page on their tablets, Mahana, 61, told them to pinch their fingers “jaise kitab ke panne palatate hain (like you do when you turn a page in a book )”. Many MPs could not hide their joy at accomplishing the above.
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Later, as the deputies raised too many questions together, with the pundits looking increasingly harassed, Mahana told them to take things slowly. “Aap abhi Class 1 mein nahin pahunche, aur PhD karne chale hain (You haven’t finished class 1 yet and you want to do a PhD),” he joked to a member’s question on how to download their supplementary questions online.
Rashid Husain, one of the NIC experts, informed that each member can log in to their devices using their own ID and password. Ministers have other software on their devices allowing them to directly exchange live notes with their respective secretaries, pulling relevant information as and when needed in the House.
Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi’s question on how to access ‘My Notes’ section on the tablet was vehemently supported by BSP’s only MP Uma Shanker Singh , as requiring an immediate response. Shahi was told to go to the part called “Tippiriyan”.
The SP’s Irfan Solanki, clearly the one most comfortable with the devices, was seen opening the party logo on each MP’s e-books and snapping a picture of it. This was later shared by SP leader Akhilesh Yadav as an example of his party’s MPs already being tech-savvy.
In the coming days, MPs will also be able to mark their presence in the Chamber via the biometric system on devices, as well as their votes on questions on the floor.
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A change was already visible at the end of the week. Given the time saved, the Assembly could deal with more questions.