A meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs which was to take place on June 3 was deferred today after several MPs expressed their inability to attend because of different lockdown protocols in states. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat had also not given permission for the members to join the meeting through video-conference.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, who heads the crucial committee, deferred the meeting and is planning to write to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu once again to allow members to join the meeting through a secure videoconferencing platform.
The committee was to scrutinize the implementation of the lockdown and aspects related to it like movement of migrants and the central government’s coordination with the states at its June 3 meeting. Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla was also expected to brief the committee on the various aspects of the lockdown and its handling by his ministry.
Sharma said the meeting had to be deferred as many members had written to him saying that “they have travel constraints.” At least two of them, including DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran, wrote to him saying they want to come to Delhi and attend the meeting but are in a piquant situation because they would be forced to enter into quarantine for a 14-day period upon their return to their states because of state protocols.
“Those members who were to come by road… the Delhi borders were sealed today for a week,” Sharma said. He said the best option was to allow and facilitate members to join the meeting on a video-conferencing platform of the NIC.
“Some members had asked for exemption from the SOP on quarantine upon their return after attending the meeting. I had taken it up with the Rajya Sabha Secretariat but no such exemption has come through. Secondly, in this situation to have the maximum participation it would have been better if the members were facilitated to join through videoconferencing,” he said.
“That has also not been acceded to. In this situation, I am forced to defer the meeting,” Sharma told The Indian Express.
“I have written repeatedly and cited the examples of Parliaments of other countries where the committees have met during the lockdown like the US Senate committee and House committee. Thrice they have met and passed the stimulus package. Similarly, the British parliament…it is partially in session…43 parliaments of the world and their committees are meeting virtually,” he said.
Sharma said it is ironic that the Government is not able to provide a secure video platform for the Parliamentary standing committees to meet. “That would be a reflection on the NIC. If the NIC can provide a secure video platform for the Prime Minister to have regular meetings with the chief ministers, for the cabinet secretary and home secretary to have meetings with chief secretaries of the states…why not standing committees,” he said.
“We are the largest democracy and we should continue to function as one. Deliberations of the parliamentary standing committee are always bipartisan, constructive and useful. The Government would have benefitted from the views and suggestions of the members of the standing committee,” he added.
“We have to see that Parliament as an institution remains functional in these extraordinary times. If every other institution being facilitated to function and being encouraged to do so using technology …denying the same to the highest institution in our democracy…actually is unfortunate and needs to be corrected. It must be corrected in the larger interest so that Parliament as an institution is able to discharge what is expected of it constitutionally as its duty,” he added.
Sharma said the ruling BJP “surely has a larger role to play in supporting the functioning of the Parliament and its committees and not otherwise.” He said members who requested to be allowed to join through videoconferencing should have been allowed.
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