The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time trick on clock-watchers
- In the middle of panchayat debate, all clocks freeze in House

New Delhi, July 24: At five minutes past five today, time stood still in Parliament.

All the clocks — in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, the central hall, in ministers’ chambers and in every one of the offices in the stately building — suddenly stopped.

“It shows the time of the NDA is up,” prophesied an Opposition member.

But there was no panic, only mirth, as members who always have one eye on the clocks experienced “timelessness”.

Though time stood still, work did not — with the Houses going about what was left of the day’s business like clockwork as presiding officers turned to their time-tested wristwatches.

Parliament officials said the clocks, operated through a centralised electrical system, halted at 5.05 pm after a technical snag.

A debate on panchayati raj was on in both Houses. The chair and several members had agreed that it was an important subject and, if necessary, the discussion could carry on beyond 6 pm.

Despite the “importance” of the subject, many members had left early. At 5 pm, only a handful was debating and some were gazing at the clocks, willing them to tick faster. The press gallery was also near empty.

Congress member Margaret Alva was the first to notice the time freeze in the Lok Sabha. She pointed out to Speaker Manohar Joshi that all the four clocks in the House had stopped, and were showing different times.

“What is happening'” Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India wondered aloud. “This is all because your election symbol is a clock,” Joshi joked. Athawale had contested the Lok Sabha polls as an ally of the Nationalist Congress Party, which has the clock as its symbol.

In the Rajya Sabha, Congress members Balkavi Bairagi and Rehman Khan spotted the stopped clocks. Congress leader Suresh Pachauri, who was in the chair, assured them: “Don’t worry, my watch is showing the correct time.”

An engineer with the Central Public Works Department that mans the synchronised electrical system in Parliament, P.M. Singh, said in the evening he hoped the clocks would be ticking tonight. But till midnight, the hands of the clocks hadn’t moved.

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