Software issues keep legislature from going paperless

Software issues keep Karnataka legislature from going paperless

What then is delaying the implementation? The government has found the NeVA software to be inadequate

The government is now keen on reviving the project, with Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri pushing for it. Credit: DH Photo

The Karnataka legislature recently concluded its monsoon session, which was packed with debates, Bills, questions raised by legislators and written replies by the government.

This also meant that thousands of sheets of paper were given to members of both the Houses, costing time and money to the government.

For a decade now, the government has been attempting, without success, to go paperless in the Assembly and Council by implementing the e-Vidhan.

Not only is this expected to save paper and money for the government, it will also help in having a digital record of all debates, questions and answers in both Houses.

The government is now keen on reviving the project, with Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri pushing for it. 

At a recent press conference, Kageri had blamed the government’s apathy for the inordinate delay.

“There was a temporary pause in the process as the legislature session was in progress. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the legislature will soon sit together to discuss on taking the initiative forward,” Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar told DH.

Also read: Karnataka govt files to go paperless from October 1

To implement e-Vidhan, the government has to adopt the National eVidhan Application (NeVA), a software developed by the Centre. Himachal Pradesh first adopted it in 2014.

Karnataka, too, tried. In 2018, the then Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar initiated the process.

“It was a decision taken at a Speakers’ conference,” Kumar recalls. However, the Centre took more than a year to respond to the state’s proposal.

The government also undertook a feasibility assessment as there were concerns of the Vidhana Soudha’s heritage structure being damaged.

The assessment was fruitful as officials found that high-speed wireless connectivity could be implemented in both Houses with no structural modifications.

What then is delaying the implementation? The government has found the NeVA software to be inadequate.

“This software was meant for unicameral legislature. We have found that it does not suit our requirement as we have to adopt it for both the Legislative Assembly and the Council,” a senior official says.

Interestingly, the Lok Sabha itself is not using this software as there are many gaps in it, the official added.

The alternative is for Karnataka to design its own software, which will cost Rs 250 crore in contrast to NeVA that will be just Rs 69 crore. Also, with NeVA, the state had the added benefit of cost sharing with the Centre at a 60:40 ratio.

Nonetheless, a proposal has been sent from the legislature secretariat to the finance department for a new software.

Sources say the legislature secretariat has also asked for a separate internet network for the Assembly and Council. This would help them easily troubleshoot any network issues from the premises when a session is in progress. The finance department is yet to respond to this proposal.

Legislators are also eager to go digital. Kudachi MLA P Rajeev points out that a majority of the printed responses given to lawmakers end up in the junkyard.

“Many responses are constituency-specific and not relevant to everyone. Inevitably, all of this just goes to the junk.”

Also, legislators have to depend on their staff to go and look up background information online during a debate in the House. With e-Vidhan, a member can look it up themselves while sitting in the House, Kumar explains.

While awaiting the e-Vidhan, the legislature secretariat is doing its best to reduce paper.

Several reports and unstarred questions are now available online, with only a few printed copies. The secretariat is also digitising all the proceedings, to keep it ready to be ported to e-Vidhan as soon as it is implemented. 

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