Reporting from the Parliament

July 25th, 2009

As Delhi swelters, for a reporter, Parliament is the place to be. Although strict and complex rules reign in the press galleries of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (how you sit, what you can carry, how you communicate with those sitting in the House, are all governed by rules), you can get a sumptuous lunch for Rs 13, because of the catering by Indian Railways, there is always a place where you can catch a snooze and the huge Parliament House library complex offers a temporary office.

Little wonder then that reporters - and some who are reporters only in their spare time - like it when Parliament is in session. You are away from the beady eyes of the bosses in the office and once in the press gallery, can do pretty much as you like.

Entry to Parliament is much more difficult now, after the attack on it. There was a time when it used to be a more open, accessible place. Veterans recall that once, when Ananthashayanam Aiyangar was Speaker, a couple of reporters in the press gallery were reading something of a racy nature. One was telling his colleague something about a picture when the glossy magazine slipped from their hands - and fell on the desk of the Speaker.

Today you could probably be jailed for this. At that time, Aiyangar summoned the reporters. They stood trembling before him for nearly 10 minutes when he lifted his head from the paper he was reading and recited all the rules that the reporters had violated. But, he told them, they could go, he was letting them off this time. Nearly fainting with relief, the reporters scurried out, but not before one of them timidly wondered if he could have the magazine back.

What? asked the Speaker. This is now the property of the House. I have to study it, he observed and told them to leave.

Covering events in the House is endlessly fascinating - and quite entertaining sometimes. These days the most riveting is the exchange between Speaker Meira Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad. It is clear that they don’t much like each other. Equally interesting is the occasional exchange between Home Minister P Chidambaram and the Left.

And to sign off, reproduced here is an excerpt from Chidambaram’s reply to the demand for grants for his ministry in the Lok Sabha. He’s talking about the incident in Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir where a boy went missing and his body was discovered in a graveyard. He says: One example which an Hon. Member has said is about a boy missing. An incident of a boy missing is not new. Boys are missing; sometimes boys and girls are missing; and a boy and a girl together are missing. This is nothing unusual. If there is something wrong, if there is something criminal, if there is something evil, if there is something sinister about that incident, you have to register an FIR, investigate and find out if there is anything wrong.”

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