A greener road map for India’s Parliament - Hindustan Times
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A greener road map for India’s Parliament

Jun 29, 2023 06:37 PM IST

In a democratic system, it is imperative that our parliaments respond to the serious contemporary challenges our planet is facing today.

The International Day of Parliamentarism, celebrated every year on June 30 since 2018, is a special day for democratic countries around the world, as it recognises, celebrates and reaffirms the power of the people as the ultimate arbiter in shaping the destinies of countries. This is the day for the parliamentary systems to evaluate and take stock of the progress achieved so far, identify the challenges, and formulate ways to address them. The theme for this year’s International Day of Parliamentarism “Parliaments for the Planet” will enable us to reinvent the role of legislative bodies in order to generate a coordinated and concerted response on issues such as global warming, climate justice, desertification, e-waste, and environmental degradation. Addressing these challenges calls for greater coordinated political action by parliaments of democratic countries.

The lokarpan (dedication) of the new Parliament building by the Prime Minister was a moment of pride for our nation. (AFP) PREMIUM
The lokarpan (dedication) of the new Parliament building by the Prime Minister was a moment of pride for our nation. (AFP)

In a democratic system, legislative bodies are the centres of constructive dialogue, discussion and debate. It is a platform where issues of public interest are debated, laws are made for the welfare of the people, and accountability of the executive and transparency of the administration is secured through debates and discussions. In any society, the role of legislative bodies in improving the socio-economic condition of people is of vital importance. And, that is why, it is imperative that our parliaments respond to the serious contemporary challenges our planet is facing today.

We are living in the age of technology and innovation. As technology pervades every sphere of our life, our legislative bodies also need to adapt and respond to the changing situation. It is heartening that in recent years, the Indian Parliament as well as our state legislatures have moved towards inculcating technology and innovation in their work in a big way. Technology has been internalised as an essential element of various processes and procedures of Parliament; from tabling of notices and making resources available to members, to budget management in electronic form. Consequently, we have almost done away with the system of circulating papers in physical form, relying on electronic modes of communication. Millions of pages of parliamentary records have been digitised and made available for the people on Parliament’s website. We are steadily moving towards the goal of a paperless legislature both at the national as well as state level. The Digital Sansad app has been developed to bring Parliament closer to the people. Comprehensive redesigning of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems and applications, which is aimed at transforming our Parliament into a Smart Parliament, is in progress. This will enable us to reduce our carbon footprint substantially.

The lokarpan (dedication) of the new Parliament building by the Prime Minister was a moment of pride for our nation. The new building bears testimony to our rich cultural heritage as well as our promptness to embrace futuristic technologies. It is a platinum-rated green building, incorporating eco-friendly techniques including solar power generation system, rainwater harvesting and water recycling system. It has Griha (Green Rating For Integrated Habitat Assessment) five-star certification, incorporating energy efficiency of the highest order.

At the state level, several state legislatures including Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland and Uttar Pradesh have embraced digital technology. Other states are also following suit to reduce their carbon footprint. Our endeavour is to link all the legislative bodies of the country to a single digital platform to build synergies by sharing resources and best practices among legislatures. A lot of work has already been done in this direction.

If we have to realise the goal of Parliaments for the Planet, there is an urgent need to institutionalise inter-parliamentary dialogue and sharing best practices on the issues such as climate change and climate action. For this, multilateral parliamentary frameworks such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) will have to come forward with initiatives to encourage dialogue amongst parliaments on issues that are relevant for a green and sustainable planet. There is a need to orient parliamentary diplomacy towards environmental issues.

As G-20 president, India has underlined its commitment to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, or One Earth, One Family, One Future. India, since ancient times, has believed in the shared destiny of humanity. Through our exemplary climate action initiatives including fulfilling our responsibilities as mandated under multilateral mechanisms, such as the COP framework, we have reaffirmed our resolve to work for a sustainable planet that fulfils the needs of humanity.

As the mother of democracy, India has a momentous opportunity to showcase the strength of its rich democratic heritage and take leadership on issues of common concern such as the climate crisis, financial inclusivity, digital public infrastructure, and sustainable development. As the supreme representative institution, Parliament has the responsibility to lead the way on climate action and sustainable development. Legislatures have to be the torch bearers in the fight to save our planet. By adopting green policies and embracing a culture of sustainability, parliaments and parliamentarians can help address the climate crisis.

People look up to parliamentarians to fulfil their expectations and aspirations. Through them, they see the genesis of progressive transformation encompassing the entire country. If democracy is to thrive, then Parliament, as the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, needs to be strong, transparent, accountable, representative and responsive. I am sure that the International Day of Parliamentarism will be the day when our public representatives re-dedicate themselves to the cause of making our planet a shared and sustainable place with climate justice. The Parliament of India, as always, will continue to take the lead and inspire the citizens and the global community towards making our mother Earth a healthy planet for not just humans but all living beings. As beautifully expressed in the Rigveda – the winds bring sweet (rewards) to the sacrificer; the rivers bring sweet (waters); may the herbs yield sweetness to us.

Om Birla is Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The views expressed are personal.

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