Everybody talks of declining reading habits among youngsters. But the same trend is visible among the Bihar legislators too, who seem to be not quite fascinated by books and devote minimal time in libraries to enrich their knowledge.
If one goes by the records of the State Assembly library, it suggests that only 60-70 MLAs, out of 243 MLAs in the Assembly, visit the pustakalaya regularly while only ten to 15 legislators have issued books in the last one-and-a-half years of the current session.
The same is the story of the library in the house of elders or the State Legislative Council, where the number of visitors is abysmally low compared to the strength of 75 members. Agrees Bhola Singh, a senior legislator of BJP, "It's a fact that very few MLAs visit the library. It's only a reflection of the general lack of interest for academic pursuits among the new legislators." Singh maintained that the deterioration in politics over the past two decades is much responsible for the declining reading habits among the law-makers.
"The dynamics of politics has changed where power, prestige and perks matters most for public representatives," he added. It may be noted that the State Assembly library has a rich collection of books, journals and reports of legislative committees. Senior legislators also point out that the apparent disinclination among the new legislators to know about the legislative business rules is the reason why there had been deterioration in the House proceedings.
"There are only handful of legislators in every party who are vocal and participate in legislative business, like question hour, debate on cut-motions and bills. The rest keep silent. It's a big loss for the public representatives who elect the MLAs to raise their issues," said a senior RJD legislator, seeking anonymity.
He also said that in earlier days, the MLAs used to put across their point by forceful debates of the likes of former Chief Minister, Karpoori Thakur and socialist Kapildeo Singh whose speeches used to evoke wide appreciation. "Now all that has changed. The legislators especially of the Opposition parties now storm the well and create disorder on any matter instead of debating it," said another senior legislator.
But young MLAs, who have a big presence in this assembly, say that it's not correct to make an inference that the new legislators have less knowledge about legislative business. "It's true that reading habits have declined. But there are many young MLAs who visit the library regularly and gather information about varied subjects," said Bhim Singh, an RJD MLC, who holds a PhD degree.