Parliament Committee meetings likely to restart soon

Coronavirus lockdown: Parliament Standing Committee meetings likely to restart soon

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu

With air and train travel resuming in COVID-19 Lockdown 4.0, Parliament is gearing up to hold Standing Committee meetings with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu reviewing the preparedness for regular deliberations in times of social distancing.

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Naidu held a meeting with Birla, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and senior officials on Saturday regarding the availability of rooms and the norms to be followed in the context of coronavirus-induced regulations, sources said.

Nine rooms in the Parliament House and annexe have been identified for holding regular meetings of the 24 Department Related Standing Committees and another six rooms for other Committees of both the Houses.

Sources said only the Main Committee Room in the annexe enables meetings of the Committees with adherence to social distancing norm, following which Naidu and Birla instructed officials to arrange for extra seating to maintain social distancing in other rooms. 

The Department Related Standing Committees have 31 MPs -- 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha -- while other panels of both the Houses have much less number of MPs.

Both the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker also said that participation of officials from both the secretariats and the ministries appearing before the Committees would be kept to a bare minimum to comply with social distancing norm.

Sources said Naidu also directed the officials of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to draw up a schedule for enabling the taking of oath after Lockdown 4.0 by 37 new members who were elected unopposed. He spoke to the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad in this regard.

Naidu also spoke to the Election Commission of India about the elections for 18 more vacancies in seven States which were deferred after the COVID-19 outbreak. He was informed that the Commission was examining the matter.

Earlier this month, both Naidu and Birla had asked Secretaries General of both the Lower and Upper Houses to submit a report on the possibilities of virtual meetings and time needed to enable secure technology platforms. 

Earlier, Standing Committee Chairmen Anand Sharma (Home), Shashi Tharoor (Information Technology) and Bhartruhari Mahtab (Labour) had sought meetings of committees through video conference but both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats have rejected their demand.

In a letter, Mahtab told the Lok Sabha Speaker that at least Parliaments in 23 countries have been conducting virtual meetings despite being under COVID-19 lockdown. 

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