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MLAs, live on babu laptops

Ranchi, Feb. 26: Waiting for a pepper spray moment in the state Assembly?

If citizen viewership as democracy’s watchdog is the main aim behind the live telecast of MPs inside Parliament, Jharkhand, with the same intent, started from yesterday its real-time and unedited webcast of Assembly proceedings for senior bureaucrats via PCs and laptops.

Right now, only department secretaries across three secretariat buildings — Project Building and FFP Building in Dhurwa and Nepal House in Doranda — can watch the live and unedited feeds via Jharnet, the statewide area network (SWAN). Slowly, the ambit of the webcast will cover 260 block offices across 24 districts.

To enable this, a converter transforms data obtained as broadcast format from the multicam system installed in the House since February 26, 2010, into webcast. The latter is streamed live via Jharnet on connected devices.

This webcast comes at a time when the budget session (February 19 to March 7) is on, though most of the excitement — related to third supplementary and 2014-15 fiscal — is over.

But, what is important is that now Jharkhand is among a handful of states — Bihar, Kerala, Rajasthan and Delhi, to name some — to webcast Assembly proceedings.

Conceived broadly by chief secretary R.S. Sharma, the state IT department and a city-based consultant to ensure government officials directly get to watch MLAs in the House, the live feeds will show what the legislators say and do. Unruly behaviour of MLAs, if any, will also be exposed.

If being watched by bureaucrats compels MLAs to behave better and raise noteworthy issues, it also helps babus stay on their toes and be prepared to answer legislators on the nitty-gritty of respective departments.

An Assembly official told The Telegraph that this idea was a very recent one.

“It occurred in the first week of February after chief secretary Sharma had a discussion with a city-based tech-savvy youth Arun Prakash, who earlier helped save Rs 1.35 lakh per day of the Assembly by introducing the multicam system to give footage of proceedings to the media. The webcast was implemented yesterday. The converter costs below Rs 4 lakh,” he said.

State IT department’s principal secretary N.N. Sinha told The Telegraph that the normal practice was to give feeds of Assembly proceedings to Doordarshan and local channels. “Now, the webcast will be live and unedited with Jharnet,” he said.