Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sikkim Journalists taught ways of ‘tracking the activities of MPs & MLAs’

GANGTOK, September 19: The Sikkim Legislators, albeit from a single party and no oppositions, should now get prepared and accountable to face a volley of ‘embarrassing’ questions from the Fourth Estate.
Journalists were today taught ways of ‘tracking the activities of MPs and MLAs’ by a New Delhi based NGO, PRS Legislative Research during a half-day workshop as part of its workshop series on ‘tracking the work of legislators’, which was held at the premises of the Press Club of Sikkim here.
Tonusree Basu and Chakshu Roy from the PRS Legislative Research gave tips on how to use the Parliament website effectively, especially tracking the details of the MPs as elaborate as the attendance of each MP in session, the funds allocated to them each year, utilization of those funds, amenities and salaries given to them and many more. This, the duo opined should also be introduced in State legislatures especially in a democratic set up like India.
During the workshop, journalists were also seen keen on tracking the website of the Election Commission of India, which detailed election affidavits, filed by MPs and MLAs. This site has details of the contesting MLAs/MP’s assets, liabilities and criminal cases. The website also enables one to see previous affidavits of the contesting candidates, if journalists or the public for that matter needs to do comparison of the particular MP’s or MLA’s assets. “If such sites are used regularly by the Press, then they can really get good stories,” it was informed.
Simultaneously, tips on the nuances of legislative reporting were brought to the fore along with questions chipped in by editors and senior journalists – the participants of the workshop.
Ms Basu on the other hand mentioned that legislative reporting would be much more accurate if websites on Parliament are followed accurately as it contains lot of information with regular updates. At the same time, this approach would help the people’s representatives become more accountable, she added.
Interestingly, the Parliament website also tracks the particular MP’s participation in debates and kinds of questions put up in the Parliament. Explaining this, certain examples were cited as how some journalists in other parts of India through the use of the Parliament website exposed misuse of MPLAD scheme in that particular MP’s constituency. It may be mentioned her that each MP is given Rs 2 crore annually to meet the demand of the general public for provision of certain basic facilities including community infrastructure.
While providing a lot of many other useful websites to the journalists, the PRS representatives also said that PRS website where various legislative activities like the list of bills introduced and CAG reports are available would also provide some backgrounder.
Apart from political websites, the Right to Information (RTI) Act was also discussed.
Earlier, Mr. Roy while highlighting the objective of the workshop said that such workshop has become important for journalists as the democratic society play the role of people’s voice and deliver messages to the people living in every nook and corner of the region. He said PRS Legislative Research is an independent project initiative that seeks to strengthen the legislative process by making it better informed, more transparent and participatory.
The workshop hosted by the Press Club of Sikkim had its president Parasmani Dangal shower praises on the initiative of the PRS Legislative Research. Expressing gratitude to Ms Basu and Mr. Roy for having shared a lot of legislative knowledge to the Sikkim journalists within a short time, Mr. Dangal said the workshop on the system of state assemblies and Parliament should be of at least 3-4 days. He also assured to make full use of the techniques learnt from the workshop.
The workshop had started with the welcome address delivered by PCS working president Amit Patro.

(Yishey D. in Sikkim Express)