The resumption of domestic flights on Monday has paved the way for holding parliamentary committee meetings once lockdown 4.0 ends on May 31, and also raised the prospect of Parliament holding the monsoon session as per schedule, by the third week of July.

At their Friday meeting, 22 opposition parties led by the Congress had demanded that the government “restore parliamentary functioning and oversight with immediate effect”.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the vice president of the country, has led the effort to ensure that parliamentary committees start meeting again.

However, while it would be easier to hold meetings of parliamentary standing committees by ensuring social distancing norms, as none of these committees have more than 31 members, holding the session would pose a challenge as members sit very close to each other in the two Houses.

Over the past two months, Naidu has reached out to leaders of political parties, and nearly all Rajya Sabha MPs, and has been asked when would Parliament might hold its next session.

Naidu told them at the end of April that “with the intensive virus containment efforts being mounted across the country and their results showing on ground, one may hope for normal schedule”. According to Parliament’s normal schedule, it holds its monsoon session in the third week of July.

According to sources, Naidu “has reviewed the preparedness” of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats in ensuring availability of rooms that would offer social distancing to hold meetings of parliamentary standing committees.

On Saturday, Naidu discussed the issue with Speaker Om Birla, parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi and senior officials of the two Houses. Sources said Naidu and Birla noted the resumption of air and train services.

During the hour long meeting, nine rooms in the Parliament House and its annexe building were identified for holding regular meetings of the 24 department related standing committees and another six rooms for other committees of both the Houses.

Officials told Naidu and Birla that only the ‘main committee room’ in the annexe building has the requisite space and facilities to allow for meetings adhering to social distancing norms. Naidu and Birla asked officials to arrange for extra seating with mike facilities in other rooms to maintain social distancing.

The 24 department related standing committees have 31 members, including 10 from the Rajya Sabha and 21 from the Lok Sabha. The other parliamentary committees of both the Houses have much less number of MPs.

It was decided that the participation of officials from both the secretariats and the ministries appearing before the committees would be kept to bear minimum to comply with social distancing norms.

Naidu asked officials of the Rajya Sabha secretariat to draw up a schedule for enabling taking of oath after lockdown 4.0 by the 37 new members of the House who were elected unopposed. He also spoke with the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Naidu spoke to the Election Commission about the elections for 18 more vacancies in seven states which were deferred after the corona virus outbreak.

News Source: Business Standard


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