India is in the safe hands of a vibrant democracy

A studying English Literature at Ravenshaw College, Choudhury Ramakanta Das opened his sleeves to his professional career as a college English lecturer. Subsequently, he joined as an officer the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi and eventually became its joint secretary. He has witnessed the swords of wit and wisdom unfurled by the brilliant and the sarcastic, the aggressive devotees of parliamentarians who have enriched his experience to produce valuable books on parliamentary affairs. He has published a legislative biography of Biju Patnaik which contains a wealth of information on Bijubabu as a parliamentarian. He is the author of a book on the evolution of the Parliament of India. He also has seven books of poetry to his credit. It is owned by Kendrapada and is a recipient of the Poet Laureate award from the World Congress of Poets, USA.

In an interview at the pioneerDas spoke to Sugyan Choudhury on his experiences relating to the Indian Parliament.

Can you tell us about your professional background?

My professional journey began as a Lecturer in English Literature at Marshaghai Degree College, Kendrapada after completing my Masters at Ravenshaw College. Five years later I joined Rajya Sabha as a Class 1 Officer and served the Upper House of Parliament for 32 years until my retirement as Joint Secretary. I have met the challenges of both professions to my complete satisfaction.

What is your opinion on the phenomena of multilingualism in Parliament?

This is not only a wonderful question, but quite topical. We have adopted 22 languages ​​in our Constitution. Article 120 guarantees the right of deputies to express themselves in one of these languages. The Parliament has trained language interpreters who provide simultaneous interpretation of ongoing speeches by MPs and Ministers in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and in parliamentary committees.

Multilingualism has been practiced in Parliament since 1964. It is a godsend for facilitating effective and meaningful debate. As I headed this department at Rajya Sabha, I have first-hand knowledge of the indispensability of this facility for the efficient functioning of Parliament. When it comes to multilingualism in global legislative bodies, the Indian Parliament is on par with the European Parliament, the European Union and the United Nations, where it is also widely practiced.

How are standing committees responsible for a healthy democracy in India?

I believe that the permanent parliamentary committees linked to the departments have been instrumental in guaranteeing the accountability of the executive before the legislature, in particular financial accountability. These committees provide a platform for MPs to exchange views, freely and frankly, across party lines, on various issues of public interest. During the inauguration of the parliamentary committee system, the then Rajya Sabha President, KR Narayanan, observed: “The main purpose of the permanent parliamentary committees linked to the departments is to ensure the accountability of the government to the Parliament through a more detailed examination of the measures in these committees. The intention is not to weaken or criticize the administration but to strengthen it by investing it with more meaningful parliamentary support.”

You are the author of “Biju Patnaik-A Legislative Biography”, which was launched by Naveen Patnaik in New Delhi during the centenary celebration of Bijubabu’s birth. How much justice did you do to the legendary patriarch in your book?

This book is very close to my heart because it took me a whole year to write it. Apart from a brief overview of the birth of the Indian Parliament, this book contains extensive details of Biju Patnaik’s profile as a multifaceted statesman, patriot and ace pilot. The book also contains data on important legislation passed during his tenure as central minister. The unique aspect of this book is that it contains the verbatim of all his speeches which he delivered in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. As one reads the speeches of this great parliamentarian, one gets a graphic picture of the leader’s mind. From the volume of genuine feedback I have received from academic readers such as seasoned journalists and MPs over the years since the launch of this book by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and former Vice President Hamid Ansari , I feel like I’ve done the book’s subject justice. Sharing his thoughts after reading the book, famous Bollywood screenwriter Kamlesh Pandey told me that he was so inspired by this great man’s iconic personality that a biopic should be made about Biju Patnaik and he went on to say that the current generation is looking for a leader who could be their ideal and Biju Patnaik effectively fills this void.

You are also a creative artist and a poet. What are your creations and how do you combine your creative journey with the vagaries of administration?

I have published seven books of English poetry and anthologized one book which contains poems by 55 poets from Odisha. I contributed in a small measure to the World Poets Congress Mega Festival held at KIIT University in 2019 under the chairmanship of Dr. Achyuta Samanta, MP and Founder of KIIT and KISS Universities. About 1,500 poets and writers from 82 countries participated in the festival. I stole precious moments from my busy working life in Rajya Sabha to indulge in creative pursuits.

How well did your book “The Parliament of India – An Evolution” analyze the history of the Indian Parliament and its possible future?

My latest book, “The Parliament of India – An Evolution”, is a brief history of the establishment of the present Parliament of India. It has a 350-year-old canvas giving insight into fateful events in Indian parliamentary history since the arrival of the East India Company in India becoming a republic in 1950, followed by the first general elections and the formation of the first Lok Sabha .

From your long, long experience, how do you compare and contrast the Indian parliamentary system with that of other developed democracies in the world?

India is the largest democracy in the world. It has stood the test of time over the past 75 years and lived up to expectations. Despite several challenges such as frequent disruptions, declining productivity, shrinking space for opposition, the Parliament of India has effectively and efficiently discharged its basic law-making responsibilities and guarantee of executive accountability. The Indian Parliament reflects its pluralistic, multi-linguistic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature and is on par with the legislatures of other major democracies in the world. India is in the safe hands of a vibrant democracy.