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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Parliamentary committee meetings come in the shadow of uncertainty

  • Senior officials of the home ministry did not turn up for a meeting the second time due to coronavirus-related health risks and engagement in relief work in their respective constituencies

NEW DELHI: The prospect of holding a Parliamentary committee meeting seems bleak as senior officials of the home ministry did not turn up for the second time due to coronavirus-related health risks and relief work in their respective constituencies.

The standing committee on home affairs had invited senior officials amid growing demand by opposition parties to hold meetings to analyse the role of the Centre in handling the coronavirus crisis.

"This is no time for analysis, this is time for action. The entire country is fighting covid-19, what is the point of holding meetings now? We should collectively, all parliamentarians, should try to help migrant labourers, analysis and scrutiny can happen later," said a senior BJP Parliamentarian, who is a committee member.

According to persons aware of development, a meeting of the panel was scheduled on Wednesday but was deferred after most members expressed inability to attend it. Among key reasons flagged by the members were health risks connected to air travel, quarantine norms in some states and that they are stationed in their respective constituencies for relief work.

"The meeting has been deferred or delayed and we are hopeful that it will soon take place. If some members of the opposition see this as an opportunity to corner the government then they are welcome to do so. We are not scared, and they can go ahead to scrutinise the decisions of the government. The union government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken decisions to help people and there should be no politics about it," said another BJP parliamentarian, also a part of the committee.

The problem of holding standing committee meetings first came to light when parliamentarians could not meet on scheduled dates due to the nationwide lockdown. Some lawmakers have demanded that they should be allowed to hold these meetings through video conferencing or any other means using technology.

So far, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats have not permitted to hold such meetings online.

“All such committees are non-partisan and in the current example too we are only trying to assess the role of the government during the pandemic. Several members including me expressed our inability to travel given the current circumstances. There is no question of having any political motive in either calling officials or expressing difficulty in attending the meet," said a senior opposition leader, who is part of the panel, requesting anonymity.

Last month, secretary generals of both the Houses were directed by Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to examine the pros and cons of holding such meetings online, but officials in the know said confidentiality clause being compromised continues to be a key roadblock.

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