Panaji, July 21 : The proceedings in the Goa assembly, which begins its monsoon session July 22, will be virtually paperless, Speaker Rajendra Arlekar said Monday. The session, which is expected to see over 2,500 questions, will be 95 percent paperless, according to the speaker. Both ruling and opposition benches are preparing to battle over issues related to the multi-billion dollar mining scam, use of police to settle political scores, the Lusofonia Games scam and other issues.
“We are proud to say that for the first time in its history, the Goa legislative assembly is going paperless. Almost 95 percent of the proceedings will be online… Give us some time, we will go 100 percent (paperless) soon,” Speaker Rajendra Arelekar told IANS. Instead of shuffling through kilos of paper sheaf, each of the 40 MLAs will instead use their customized e-tablets or laptops to read their questions or peruse through replies given to them by ministers.
Both legislators and the 50-odd journalists who cover the session, are each allotted bundles of paper, which includes starred questions, unstarred questions, bulky annexures, bills and the numerous reports and documents which are tabled in the assembly on any given day.
All that, according to Arlekar, is set to change. “It is an endeavour to make it an e-assembly in tune with the times. Nearly half the questions have been sent by the MLAs online, without using paper,” Arlekar said, adding that the legislators have been “extremely co-operative” with the move. Former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat, according to the Goa legislative assembly records, has asked all his questions via the e-module, followed by Aleixo Lourenco (Congress), Ganesh Gaokar (BJP), independent MLA Naresh Sawal.
Out of the 2,511 questions which will be asked during the forthcoming monsoon session, 1,118 were posed online, Arlekar said. Arlekar said that replies to queries from the MLAs would be made available to them 48 hours before the day when the query is scheduled to feature. A special log-in and a two-step verification procedure provides secure access to the assembly’s interface for the legislators, where queries can be raised and the responses as well as the annexures can be accessed.
“The data can be accessed by the general public immediately after Question Hour,” Arlekar said. While assembly-related data will be freely available to the MLAs via laptops provided to them by the government, access to web sites could be regulated though, Arlekar said.
Asked if a recent controversy where Karnataka’s lawmakers were caught watching porn during an ongoing session of the assembly, had played on his mind when a call was taken to provide only selective access to MLAs, the speaker said that as far as safeguards go, the best way was “self-restraint”. He also said the assembly was also considering blocking some web sites.