Monday, May 12, 2008

A Visit to Democracy; or the Symbol of it: Part I

The time was 11 AM on the 5th of May. The heat in Delhi was unforgiving but 92 officers got formally dressed up, ladies in their saris and gentlemen in their black Band galas (our ceremonial dress) and started their day in the capital. We were having our attachment with the citadel of Indian democracy, our Parliament.

The parliament has a special bureau that specializes in research and training about parliament and its procedures. It is called Bureau of Parliamentary Studies (BPST). It runs courses for first time MP’s and all others who are stakeholders in our democracy. We were attached with BPST for a five day course.

After an hour’s journey we reached the parliament and entered the BPST after a multilayered security checking. The schedule for the day was to begin our course by watching a live session in the house. So after a small briefing, we proceeded towards the Lok Sabha.

While walking in the corridors of parliament, I was having multitude of thoughts. This was the system I stood for; this was the place where the fate of our nation is given shape. In the Kaleidoscope of time I saw Viceroys walking, our parliamentarians of British India giving speeches and then Nehru delivering his ‘tryst with destiny’.

Lost in these musings, I reached the visitor’s gallery of Lok Sabha. My first reaction was, Lok Sabha is so small! It was smaller than any auditorium and looked like a congested classroom. The press gallery was just above the speakers whereas the Visitor’s gallery was at the remaining periphery. MP’s were entering the house and taking the seats allotted to them. They were cracking jokes, having cross talks and some were making strange salutations to introduce humor in the house.

I spotted Dr. Manmohan Singh, Sharad Pawar, Pranab Mukherjee, Advani, Shahnawaj Hussain, Lalu Prasad and many others. The Speaker’s entry was announced and the house resumed order. First the agenda of the house was announced and then Speaker announced that proceedings against the MP’s for unruly behavior in the house shall be stopped. The decision was applauded by all members. Then on some issue regarding an apology, the house went in a pandemonium.

When silence was restored L. K. Advani referring to Pranab Mukherjee and said to the speaker “Sir, I along with the leader of Opposition, Shri Pranab Mukherjee promise full co operation in running of the house”

Speaker instantly shot back “He is anticipating” and the house burst into laughter. After making some other announcements the house was adjourned sine die. The entire thing happened in not more than 15 minutes and to tell you the truth I was awed by seeing so many great personalities.

Here I must also tell you how visitors sit in the gallery. Absolute silence has to be maintained and there are marshals to ensure that. One cannot cross one’s legs as it amounts to showing disrespect to the house. You even cannot put your hands on your friend’s shoulder. Also, visitors are present there as if they do not exist. So they do not rise when the speaker comes, they also do not rise when MP’s and Press rise for the National Song.

We came back to our BPST classroom. After one or two lectures, Speaker Sri Somnath Chaterjee came to formally welcome us for our course and addressed us. A noticeable thing was that he was very humble and apologized three times for coming 2 minutes late.

Our first day ended and we rushed to our hostels to get rid of our Band Galas. Many more things happened during BPST but they shall be blogged in the second part. Come Back :)