It was the 135th birth anniversary of the first president of India Dr Rajendra Prasad, 3rd of December, 2019 when for the first time I as a citizen of the country had the privilege to visit the Parliament to see how it looks and functions at first hand.
On a recommendation I was able to get a pass bearing number 444881 to enter the highest lawmaking body of democracy in the country. The timing was from 2 PM to 2:40 PM well mentioned on the slip of the pass I had obtained from the counter. Accordingly, accompanied by my litterateur classmate Ajay Anurag I reached the destination much in advance with full of curiosity and alacrity.
I took a metro train from Vaishali of Ghaziabad where I stay to reach the central secretariat metro station from where the parliament is just a furlong. Soon after I checked out the gate number five of the station I was stopped and asked to show the entry-pass on the wide road under the blue sheet. The security staff I bumped into was Ms Laxmi whom I appreciated for her righteous duty and she gave me a return wide smile.
My entry at the first security check was allowed on the presentation of the pass and my Aadhar card. At the second security check point I saw the visitors lined up in two different queues- one for depositing the mobile phone sets and another for those without a set. The second queue was rather smooth to proceed to the next which I chose; handing over my phone set to yet another journalist friend Manish Kumar Sinha who had joined us only to return to the press club nearby.
Everyone was supposed to deposit their cell phone sets before entering the next gate. Following the norms I reached the next security check that included frisking. I was also told not to carry even the wallet from the certain point of the security management.
The security staff performing their official duty said “only three things are allowed, entry pass, identity proof and the amount of cash. It was well written on a piece of paper which was pasted on the adjacent wall. Rest of other belongings had to be deposited at security check. I asked for a token of objects I had deposited with a mention of details. I was denied the rights, saying that they did not have the system for the same. I was a little filled with fear of losing any of the multiple cards- Driving License, Voter Identity, PAN and ATM cards I had in my swollen pocket.
What began to run through my mind was that if I lost any of them, I would not be able to claim in the court of law for lack of evidentiary proof. Hence, it was all a matter of faith and trust while depositing these articles.
At the next entry level, I was told not to carry even a pen, visiting cards and even so a single piece of paper. All I had was deposited there conforming to the security rules.
Passing through the multiple security checks in adherence to norms in place, I was able to get seat on the bench, on the upper floor from where I could see the Hon’ble MPs speaking with my naked eyes. So nice so good! I was ushered to the seat by the lady staffer mostly using sign language.
The moment I entered, I found and heard Mrs Muthuvel Karunanidhi Kanimozhi, Hon’ble MP representing Thoothukudi constituency speaking in the House. One by one, I could hear half a dozen of Hon’ble members reading their papers within the specific time limit. Good was that these MPs were raising developmental issues pertaining to their respective constituency. BJP MP Ravi Kishan drew the attention towards the extension of UPSC at his constituency.
In between instructions for the MPs were often repeated on part of Hon’ble speaker to stick to the text submitted to the chair in advance for the august purpose.
The medium of communications was either English or Hindi. I could notice the leaders from the cow belt chose to use Hindi whereas those from south preferred English.
However, MP Nishikant Dubey from Jharkhand representing Deoghar (Godda) had submitted his paper in English but spoke in Hindi with permission granted under current system. He wanted the DRDO extension in his constituency.
In between I got reminded of my college time as back as 30 years ago. One of the professors perhaps to win hearts and minds of the students announced in the class that he would be dictating a set of eleven questions; out of them the five were sure to tally with.
Interestingly, in question battery of the examinations, there used to be a set of 10 questions and only 5 were needed to be answered to score the marks.
The teacher’s claim was often correct with past records which I had heard the seniors speaking so. Most of the students were contented and happy. The flipside was that the classroom was almost empty with a thin attendance. They only waited for the day to get ‘guess questions’.
It stands to reason why I got reminded of my college time. I saw the lower house of parliament almost half of the seats unoccupied, the reasons best known to the absenting MPs. I can say I saw the House of Representatives without representatives.
Sessions of parliament are generally conducted for limited number of days in a year. Even for such a small period, the house often goes without full attendance. Given that their absence does not affect their salaries, allowances and other benefits including a pension.
The MPs are entitled to pensions out of the amount of tax collected from citizens ‘hard earned money throughout their life. On the contrary, the scheme of pensions for government officials is almost abolished. An amount of wage is deducted pro rata for their absence and late arrival from those working in private sectors.
This is what I observed in my maiden visit to the parliament. Hats off to the security personnel who work very diligently, keeping us safe including members of parliament! Can’t we have one card system in place of multiple cards as mentioned above in the country? Carrying all of them at times is cumbersome and they can sync into one.
Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author and Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd. having a popular trademark brand ‘British Lingua’. He is credited as having created a revolution in English training with the slogan ‘English for all’ in India. He has also been accorded the status of the ‘Youngest Living legend of Mithila’.