A move to make Jharkhand legislators computer-literate by providing them a free laptop each does not seem to have yielded the desired results despite more than Rs.80 lakh in public funds spent on it in the last nine years.
According to assembly sources, the Jharkhand assembly has spent more than Rs.80 lakh since 2001 to purchase laptops and organise a crash course for the legislators. The results were not encouraging as a majority of the legislators say they hardly get time to use laptops.
In 2001, then assembly speaker Inder Singh Namdhari had come out with an innovative idea to provide legislators laptops so that they could keep track of government schemes, development work and utilisation of the Local Area Funds.
A total of 55 laptops, each costing Rs.81,500, were purchased by the assembly at more than Rs.44 lakh. The state had 27 ministers who were provided laptops by their respective ministries. Crash training courses were also organised for the legislators.
However, by the 2005 polls, only 41 of the legislators returned the laptops. Quite a few of them had gifted them to their relatives and other close associates. The laptops which were returned were sold among officials and legislators for about Rs.15,000 each.
In 2005, again 70 laptops, each costing Rs.50,000 each, were purchased at an outlay of Rs.35 lakh. By the 2009 assembly elections, 61 legislators returned them. Now the speaker has to decide what to do with the 61 laptops deposited in the assembly secretariat, as well as about the ones not returned.
“There is a provision to deduct money from the pension of ex-legislators who failed to return the facilities extended by the assembly,” sources in the assembly, who spoke on strict condition of anonymity, told IANS.
The present Speaker, C.P. Singh, does not seem keen to continue the move.
“I do not believe in following the tradition. It is not necessary that I should follow what was done by previous speakers. We have not decided anything over the issue. We will discuss the issue with the legislators. We spend money to buy new laptops and if they are not used, they become useless as latest technology is coming into the market every three to six months,” Singh told IANS.
“Laptops should be used by the legislators and ministers,” said Water Resources Minister Chandra Prakash Chaudhary, but admitted he does not get much time to use it himself.
“When I am in office, I try to spend time with my laptop. I do not get time at my house or when in the constituency,” he said.
Namdhari, who introduced the system, defended his initiative. “It was partially successful. What can one do if a legislator does not try to learn technology and gifts the laptop to relatives,” he asked.