In the times of tabs and touch screens, they can’t even operate the desktop computers. Most of the time, they were seen juggling with the devices in the just concluded state assembly session.
Finally, they prefer to trudge the conventional route, using a bunch of papers to reply to questions. Even laying of most of the papers, reports and copies of documents was done manually.
Speaker B.B.L. Butail, on the first day of the assembly session Aug 7, informed the members that they could use hard copies till they got tech-savvy with the Rs.8.12 crore ($1.3 million) e-Vidhan project, the web-based paperless assembly and the country’s first pilot project that started from this session.
He requested the members to devote time after the session to familiarise themselves with the newly-installed devices.
During the house proceedings, peals of laughter reverberated off and on when the legislators tried to communicate through the devices.
The most “tech illiterates” were Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes and Power Minister Sujan Singh Pathania.
Even Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 80, who was assisted by an information technology expert throughout the session, preferred to give replies and to conduct business the old-fashioned way.
Interestingly, Pathania, while replying during question hour, tried to swipe the screen and was unable to do so. Transport Minister G.S. Bali, who was sitting beside him, tried to wipe his finger on the glass screen to reach to the page where the written reply was given. This was noticed by the opposition, who started heckling them.
Likewise, 85-year-old Stokes, a long-time administrator of women’s hockey, literally failed several times to set her finger on the super-tech gadget. At one time, she was so perplexed that Revenue Minister Kaul Singh, who was sitting next to her, had to bail her out.
During the first three days of the session, no major business was listed for the day except question hour and the members were asked to familiarise themselves with the system after the session was over.
Officials said special teaching classes were organised for the legislators ahead of the session.
“Only four to five MLAs (in a house of 68 members) preferred to attend the special classes on the three days,” said an official.
Another octogenarian assembly member who regularly participated in the e-classroom was former BJP education minister I.D. Dhiman.
“I am now comfortable with computer and could operate on my own,” Dhiman, who retired as a government teacher, told IANS.
Leader of Opposition and two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was among those seen trying their hand on the desktop when the session was in progress.
Speaker Butail, the man behind commissioning of the project, said from the next session all replies to questions, copies of bills and reports would be provided online.
Official sources said this session was adjourned abruptly and the legislators got less time to get a feel of the high-tech devices.
“Even in the next session they will face problems unless they seriously attend the classes before the commencement of the next session,” said a senior official of the assembly, who wished not to be named as he was not authorised to speak.
The session, scheduled to continue till Aug 29, was adjourned sine die as the stand-off between the treasury and opposition benches continued for five days on the opposition BJP’s demand that the state’s Congress government quit over its poor showing in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
Even during the five days, most of the time was wasted on the stalemate.
Still, the assembly adopted two resolutions through voice vote, one to withdraw the Himachal Pradesh Lokayukta Bill of 2012, passed by the previous BJP government, and the second adjourning the house sine die.
The e-Vidhan project has provisions of e-voting and online communication between government functionaries, besides video conferencing, digital video recording and web streaming.