NEW DELHI: Congress and TMC on Sunday wrote separate letters to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla seeking their permission to hold virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees and arguing that the Indian Parliament cannot be a mute spectator to the raging coronavirus pandemic in India.
In a letter to Naidu, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said parliamentary panels can contribute to the ongoing endeavours in containing the pandemic and providing relief to people.
“At this hour of collective crisis, the Parliament of India cannot be and must not be a mute spectator. It must give a message of solidarity with the people, of serious business to alleviate their agony and of unity of purpose,” he said, urging Naidu to take cognisance of the report of the Department Related Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare that had made vital recommendations on coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The meetings of the Standing Committees at this juncture will provide the nation much required collective initiative across the party lines. They are an effective instrument to ensure accountability, to provide an institutional platform to all stakeholders and to collectively explore solutions….It is in this spirit that I urge you to allow the virtual meetings of the Standing Committees,” he said in his letter.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien also wrote to Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla demanding virtual meetings of house panels.
“India has reported more than three lakh new Covid-19 cases per day for the past two weeks…In light of the prevailing circumstances, I urge your good offices to reconsider our request for conducting virtual meetings of parliamentary committees, including departmentally related standing committees, consultative committees and select committees,” he said.
TMC also said it had sent three letters to the Lok Sabha Speaker in this regard, first in July 2020 and then again in August 2020.
The demand for virtual sittings of the two houses of Parliament, as was being done by several countries, and of standing committees, had been turned down by both Naidu and Birla earlier on grounds that virtual meetings would flout the confidentiality clause of such meetings and that any changes to the norms could only be ratified by Parliament.