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Need to allow House panel members to join meets virtually too: Anand Sharma

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File  

He says there is still a lot of confusion about air travel and a virtual mode became essential

Resumption of domestic flights is not enough to hold the meetings of parliamentary standing committees till Parliament also arranges for the second alternative for the members to join these meetings virtually, Congress leader and Chairman of the standing committee on home affairs, Anand Sharma said.

 

His comments came even as Parliament is preparing to resume the parliamentary panel meetings, which abruptly halted during the extended COVID-19 lockdown. Two presiding officers of Parliament, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, met on Saturday to review the facilities available at the Parliament House to hold the meetings while adhering to strict social distancing norms. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi too was present. Nine rooms in the Parliament House and Annexe building have been identified for the purpose.

Mr. Sharma said you can’t shut the democracy because of lockdown. “Since the flights have started, we will convene the meeting at the earliest. The point is that there is lack of clarity on the quarantine and other measures for flyers. Therefore I see no reason that we have both the provisions, that those who are able to physically attend and those members who will be unable to travel because of restrictions should be allowed to join virtually,” Mr. Sharma told The Hindu.

Varied rules

States have announced varied quarantine and self-isolation rules for arriving passengers. Asymptomatic passengers arriving in Delhi will not require quarantine or isolation.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | Opposition meet to discuss govt handling of COVID-19

Overall, Mr. Sharma said, there was still a lot of confusion about the air travel and a virtual mode became essential. If Parliament of 34 nations can use virtual method to connect, then why not Indian Parliament, Mr. Sharma said.

He has, meanwhile, written a fresh letter to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to convene the meeting of the panel on home affairs at the earliest since the Ministry of Home Affairs is at the nub of regulating the lockdown, movement of migrant workers and other associated issues.

Also read: Congress should work with Centre to send more migrants home, says Nirmala Sitharaman

Chairman of the IT committee, Shashi Tharoor, who was one of the earliest to demand a virtual meeting, told The Hindu that he is still awaiting the Speaker’s consent to hold the meeting.

Chairman of the labour committee B. Mahtab, who has written twice to the Speaker on the issue, said he would be writing again on Tuesday seeking to convene the meeting of the panel at the earliest.

Also read: Economic stimulus package | Details of ₹20-lakh-crore package announced by Nirmala Sitharaman in five tranches

Informed sources said, the effort to explore a safe medium to hold meetings virtually was also being explored simultaneously. Secretary generals of the two Houses have been directed to submit a report at the earliest.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 6:38:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/need-to-allow-house-panel-members-to-join-meets-virtually-too-anand-sharma/article31673913.ece

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