Following demand from the Opposition to exempt MPs from quarantine, rules have been laid down to ensure that those attending House panel meetings would not have to undergo any institutional quarantine. The meetings would be held in the main committee room and committee room B in Parliament House annexe. So far, parliamentary standing committees have not been able to meet during successive phases of lockdown. Members have expressed reservations about travelling due to increasing Covid-19 cases in Delhi and even in home states. Opposition MPs from Congress, Trinamool, DMK and Left have been demanding virtual meetings of the standing committees. The presiding officers, however, have cited ‘confidentiality’ aspect of parliamentary standing committee meetings to overlook this demand.
“The meetings are slated and then cancelled because of lack of quorum,” said a Rajya Sabha secretariat official. At least one-third of members need to be present for a parliamentary standing committee meeting.
After the new advisory the standing committee on petroleum and natural gas held its first meeting on Tuesday. BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri, who heads the panel, told ET, “members were very keen to have a meeting and so the committee met for the first time after the pandemic outbreak. MPs from states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar attended. In all 13 MPs were present.” Before the meeting, Bidhuri had personally called up MPs, asking them to attend the first meeting after the lockdown. “A lot of work has been undertaken by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, including direct benefit transfer to Ujjwala beneficiaries. So members wanted scrutiny of measures undertaken during Covid-19,” Bidhuri said.
A number of parliamentary standing committee meetings have been scheduled after the new rules. These include public accounts committee on July 10, committee on welfare of other backward classes on July 14, information technology on July 14, water resources on July 14, labour on July 15, home ministry on July 15 and agriculture on July 21. Sources said that at least 10 of 26 members of standing panel on OBC welfare have confirmed participation.
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