Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has directed that no committee can go on more than two study tours in a year. (File)
Cracking the whip on lavish study trips by parliamentary panels, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has directed that no committee can go on more than two study tours in a year. Meetings cannot be held in hotels, and the number of officials accompanying committee members on the tour cannot exceed three.
Study tours entitle MPs to airfare, hotel accommodation and Rs 2,000 allowance per night. As per new guidelines on study tours issued by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, “No permission shall be granted for more than two study tours per year. A study tour should not ordinarily exceed five working days. The total number of days of tour under no circumstances shall exceed 10 days in a year.”
The new guidelines say that at no point should the committee meet in a hotel, even if it is during a tour. Ideally it should be in Delhi, or at the spot they have visited. If that is not possible, the premises of the organisation visited should be used for a meeting or the committee rooms in the state Assembly.
In 2015, 12 committees of Rajya Sabha, including eight department-related Standing Committees and four Standing Committees of Rajya Sabha — Committee on Subordinate Legislation, Committee on Petitions, Committee on Government Assurances and Committee on Papers Laid on the Table — undertook 43 visits outside Delhi. The number of visits of each panel ranged from one (by Health and Family Welfare Committee) to seven (by Committee on Science and Technology). While six committees undertook three visits each, the Standing Committee on Government Assurances undertook six visits.
In 2016, the committees undertook 42 visits outside Delhi. Seven visits were by the Committee on Science and Technology.
During these two years, the 12 committees of Rajya Sabha made 85 visits outside Delhi, of which 39 were in excess of the present norm of two visits per committee — an excess of 46 per cent.
Sources said that Naidu was upset at the culture of staying in luxury hotels during field trips by parliamentary committees and the tradition of holding meetings in star hotels, for which the RS Secretariat has to foot bills. “Guidelines already exist that when on field trips the preferred accommodation for MPs should be government guest houses. However, as many MPs stay in star hotels in violation of these guidelines, meetings are also held there at huge extra costs. That is what the new order will prevent,” said a source.
As per the new norms, only one official will accompany the committee if 10 or less members undertake a visit, two officials if the number of committee members is from 11 to 15, and a maximum of three if 16 or more committee members go on such visits.
During 2015 and 2016, the number of officials accompanying the committees were in the range of three to six, while the number of members of committees was in the range of three to 20. In 33 visits out of the 85, the number of committee members was 10 or less. In nine visits, the number of committee members was five or less.