The Maharashtra Legislative Council on Monday became India’s first legislative house to become paperless by introducing laptops for its members to be used during proceedings in the House.
Seventy eight members of the legislative council, including presiding officers, were given hybrid laptops fitted to their desks to be used during legislative proceedings. This was done as a pilot project and — if proved successful — will be expanded to the legislative assembly which has 288 members. All the documents related to the budget session, rules of the council and various other discussion documents will be provided to the members through the tabs. The Hindustan Times had reported about the initiative on March 3.
These hybrid computers, bought at a cost of Rs1.5 lakh each, are installed to the respective desks of the members. The screen of the laptops can also be used as a tablet since it is touchscreen.
The government has procured 88 laptops, 78 for legislators and the rest for officials of the council involved in the day to day business of the House. These hybrid laptops have a 15 inch display with a touch screen keyboard with 8 GB RAM (Random Access Memory) and one TB (TeraByte) storage capacity. It has dual camera, sim card slot and expandable memory slot.
Welcoming the initiative, chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar said it was a matter of pride that Maharashtra has taken a lead in the digitalisation drive. “Maharashtra has become the first state in India to go for digitalisation in the legislative functioning,” he said.
On the first day of its introduction, however, the members faced several technical glitches forcing many members to complain about the issue.
“We are unable to connect to the data,” said leader of the opposition Dhananjay Munde. Similarly transport minister Diwakar Raote complained of the entire data being in English. “If we are not going to get information in Marathi then it is better to switch back to paper,” he said.
Nimbalkar however assured the members that technical issues are being resolved. “There will be trial and error for some time but these will be solved in a few days,” he said.
A majority of the members seemed to have embraced the move. Even though not all of them are computer savvy, they are familiar with the touchscreen technology due to smartphones. Sources said that the legislature secretariat has arranged training for legislators who want to learn how to operate these hybrid laptops better.
State NCP President Sunil Tatkare called it a progressive move. “Though I don’t use computers, I will train myself as it is imperative in this era,” said Tatkare.
Similarly, state minister Sadabhau Khot said it will result in greater transparency and accountability. “Members do not need to go different departments in Mantralaya to get information as here one can get on click of the mouse,” said Khot. “Members have to adopt to newer technology to stay relevant,” he added.
However, the real test of the new system will be on Tuesday since there wasn’t much legislative business on day one. The usual proceedings of the House which includes Question Hour, discussions on urgent issues under calling attention notice and debates on bills, will be held from Tuesday.