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Facets In Parliamentary Affairs

Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the bicameral Indian Parliament, has taken an initiative to preserve the rich Democratic Culture of the country. Indian daily Hindustan Times recently reported that the Lok Sabha put up historic speeches delivered by former Presidents and Prime Ministers of India, foreign Heads of State and senior political leaders on a YouTube channel in the second week of May 2023. According to the daily, the move is as a part of the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s initiatives to open rich resources of the Indian Parliament to the public.

The Lok Sabha, which runs a television channel named Lok Sabha TV, recently uploaded a number of historic moments from India’s Parliamentary history on YouTube in a rare first. Those moments were taped in old video cassettes that were kept in store rooms for a long period of time. The Indian officials have digitised them before releasing on YouTube for the public to watch.

The Hindustan Times also reported that the Lok Sabha released 943 videos in the past one month, and would release more such videos in the coming days. As these videos have priceless archival material, they would be useful for researchers and academics. Talking to the media, a senior Lok Sabha official (who wanted to remain anonymous) stressed: “The Speaker wanted all available parliamentary speeches of Presidents, Prime Ministers and foreign dignitaries published online. He also asked us to put important debates in the public domain.” According to the official, people can easily access video clips of speeches in the current Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. However, it was quite difficult to access older recordings.

It may be noted that Doordarshan, an autonomous public service broadcaster founded by the Government of India on September 15, 1959, started live telecasts of Parliament proceedings in 1992. Another senior Lok Sabha official stated: “That was the partial telecast of important events, such as the presentation of the General Budget. Two years later, Doordarshan started a full telecast before the Lok Sabha TV was launched during the 14th Lok Sabha.

Interestingly, Chandra Shekhar (April 17, 1927 – July 8, 2007) had served as the eighth Prime Minister of India for just 233 days (from November 10, 1990 to June 21, 1991). However, his speeches, delivered after his tenure as PM, have grabbed attention after those were uploaded on the new YouTube channel. Commenting on the issue, the Lok Sabha official said that although there were no audio-visual recordings of Parliamentary proceedings before 1992, people still like Chandra Shekhar’s speeches.

The official has claimed that the digitisation and uploading of recordings on YouTube would go on for many more months, saying that all speeches of Chandra Shekhar are available on the YouTube channel. Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha has so far uploaded 183 speeches of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 12 speeches of his predecessor P V Narsimha Rao and all speeches of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi on YouTube. The Lok Sabha official told the press: “As the technology has become outdated, a need was felt to digitise all such records. The project was started in February 2023. In the initial phase, digitisation of video recordings of Lok Sabha proceedings has been started. Digitisation of video recordings of Rajya Sabha proceedings is proposed to be taken up in the second phase.

Watch: Famous speech by Indian Parliamentarian Dr Shashi Tharoor

As far as recordings of speeches of foreign dignitaries are concerned, the Upper House has uploaded speeches delivered by former US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to a joint sitting of the two Houses of the Indian Parliament. “Upcoming uploads include video records of special sessions on GST, 50th Year of Independence, celebration of Constitution Day, discussions on Nuclear Tests in Pokharan and all speeches of Prime Minister Modi in Rajya Sabha,” said a third official of the Lok Sabha.

The Government of India is also planning to upload debates, featuring former Prime Ministers Inder Kumar Gujral and P V Narasimha Rao, former Defence Minister George Fernandez, former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, former Presidents K R Narayanan and Pranab Mukherjee, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and some other personalities on YouTube in near future.

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