It's an issue that has united lawmakers who are normally seen bickering while Parliament is in session.
It all started with a reallotment of Parliament's Room No. 20B. The room that belonged to the Lok Sabha Speaker's typist and stenographer was recently allotted to the Trinamool Congress Party. As a result, the typists have been relocated to a small, barricaded room near the central hall that lawmakers, cutting across party lines, previously used as a 'smoking room'.
Now the ousted smokers are upset and have demanded that they be allotted a separate place to smoke while Parliament is in session. In a piece for the Anandabazar Patrika, journalist Agni Roy and Anamitra Sengupta have quoted CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee as saying that till he is able to kick the habit, "all lawmakers who smoke must unitedly raise this issue in Parliament".
"This can't go on, we lawmakers who smoke, will sit and discuss this tomorrow. There are some ministers also who are among the aggrieved," Bharatiya Janata Party MP Chandan Mitra was quoted as saying. "If this continues members will just have to smoke clandestinely. Will that increase the glory of the House?" Mitra asked.
Lawmakers have raised this with Lok Sabha Secretary-General Anoop Mishra who has reportedly assured them that alternate arrangements will be made for the smokers. Trinamool MP Saugata Roy was quoted as saying that he has had a word with Mishra who assured him that a section of a largely-unused room belonging to members of the Speaker's or Chairman's panel will probably be allotted to them for smoking, according to the report.
But many lawmakers are also pleased to see the smoking room close down. They feel Parliamentarians smoking would send the wrong message to the country and the lack of space will eventually force the smokers to cut down or quit.
"We know smoking is harmful for health. But if we don't have anywhere to smoke inside Parliament, we'll have to accept that," TMC legislator Mukul Roy was quoted as saying.
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