WHILE THE URI terror attack did not come up for discussion at the newly reconstituted standing committee on home affairs’ meeting Wednesday, beyond a reference to MPs being answerable to their constituents on deaths of 18 soldiers in the attack, the members decided to discuss the situation at the border and other security-related issues in its next meetings.
In the next two meetings — on October 6 and 14 — the committee is set to take up the border situation. Opposition MPs spoke in one voice about the need to hold back-to-back meetings — a seven-day gap is mandatory between two meets — to discuss matters related to the border situation, including the role of paramilitary forces and police and the functioning of institutions of national security such as National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Natgrid, and the Intelligence Bureau.
Wednesday’s meeting was principally meant to set the agenda for the next few meetings. It was decided that besides the border situation, the committee would also take up the issue of communal and social harmony and as part of it discuss the issue of atrocities against Dalits and minorities, as several such incidents have been reported over the last few months.
The committee was recently reconstituted, with Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Bhattacharya replaced by former Union Home minister P Chidambaram as chairman. This was the committee’s first meeting.
The Uri terror attack had not been in the agenda but the tone was set, with an initial statement that as people’s representatives MPs had their constituencies to answer to about the incident, and therefore there is a need to review the systems in place at the border.
The functioning of the Army, though, is beyond the purview of the committee as it comes under the Defence ministry. The committee agreed during the meeting that issues relating to the ministries of Defence and External Affairs are not in its jurisdiction, so those aspects will not be taken up. But, it said, a thorough scrutiny of the internal security situation is in order.
In its subsequent meetings the committee will also take up the issue of police modernisation, for which members said sufficient fund has not been released and the matter impinges on national security.
The committee’s members — Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Satyapal Singh (BJP) and Majeed Memon (NCP) are its members- also expressed concern about Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi’s record of being absent from the committee’s meetings.