Being the first and only one to go paperless in the country over two years ago, the Himachal Pradesh Assembly in Shimla roughly saves 6,000 trees (from felling) and Rs.15 crore annually by switching to online system, as per officials.
The e-Vidhan initiative by the septuagenarian state Assembly Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail has seen the young and old MLAs in the hill state keenly take to the modern technology for legislative functioning. After a series of trainings by IT experts, however, the MLAs in HP has adapted to the use of touch screen based e-books installed on their tables to view the business, replies of questions, bills, the budget and to lay papers in the house.
The HP assembly has 68 members, including the Speaker.
While the MLAs are now supposed to submit their questions online to the Vidhan Sabha secretariat, the replies from various government departments also are received online.
The e-Vidhan project of Rs.8.12 crore for the state Assembly was sanctioned by the Department of Electronics and IT, Government of India and its first instalment was received in September 2013.
The technical support for the project was offered by National Informatics Centre.
As per calculation by the Vidhan Sabha secretariat in 2013, the number of papers used between the Vidhan Sabha and state government in a year were 5.08 crore. Saving such a huge number of papers would mean preventing 6,000 trees from felling.
“Initially there was a hitch to shift to the new system. With time, most of the MLAs found it convenient and they have now started submitting questions on-line. It takes lesser time, energy and money, apart from saving the greens,” state assembly Speaker, Brij Bihari Lal Butail told The Statesman.
“Not only youngsters, but an octogenarian MLA of BJP, ID Dhiman (who died some months ago) was keenly switching to the new system,” Butail said.
The Speaker shared that the Himachal assembly was now dealing on-line at district level, saving hassle at the end of officials and finally, it will start on-line system for details at sub-divisional level.
The state assembly, which celebrated its golden jubilee a couple of years ago, is also in the process of digitalising of the records since the inception. “We have already keyed in records of assembly proceedings for some years. Once done, they would be loaded on the site of Himachal Vidhan Sabha and would serve as a ready reference for the legislators, sitting anywhere,” he said.
Butail said the Himachal government led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has supported and appreciated the paperless functioning of the state assembly. “Many states assemblies, including those in Northeast, have come here for an exposure visit on functioning of e-Vidhan and have since shown interest to adopt it in their states,” he said.