Be it the Joint Parliamentary Committee or the standing committees of Parliament, verbatim debates of committees could be off from the records in the near future, as the English verbatim reporters section is facing a threat of closure.
Parliamentary reporting is likely to come to a grinding halt, as the policy on recruitment and promotions is stalled by the Lok Sabha secretariat.
The Verbatim Reporting Service has the onerous task of covering the proceedings of the Lok Sabha, all the 60 parliamentary committees and their sub-committees/working groups, conferences and the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training verbatim, to name a few. This is covered by 22 English and 20 Hindi reporters.
At present, the service is functioning at half its strength.
The service at the Lok Sabha is headed by a director, assisted by four additional directors -- two each from the English and Hindi streams. In addition, this service has joint directors and parliamentary reporters of grades I and II.
During the last four or five years, nearly all personnel of the various other services of the Lok Sabha have been promoted, but the verbatim reporting service has been neglected in spite of vacancies.
As a result, many personnel from other services, who were very junior to these experienced reporters, have overtaken them, which has become a cause for heartburn, and has demoralised not only the parliamentary reporters, but the whole service.
The total number of personnel sanctioned for the service (both English and Hindi) put together is 70. The total sanctioned strength for English reporting is 45 and for Hindi, it is 25. At present, the number of vacant posts for English and Hindi reporters is 22 and 3 respectively.
Since the last eight years, many young reporters have left the service because of extreme work pressure and bleak promotional avenues, which have resulted in a crisis.
To make matters worse, a lot of shorthand institutes have shut down because few take to the art of shorthand.
Insiders have said that in order to address this problem, the government should think seriously as to how to recruit qualified high-speed shorthand writers.
The more experienced reporters must be sent abroad for training, just as personnel of all the other services are regularly sent.
An insider’s assessment of verbatim reportage had forewarned about this developing situation to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, but to no avail.
Insiders say the issue needs to be addressed soon, or else the service will become extinct and Parliament will not be able to keep the records of speeches and debates that take place on the floor of the house.