95 legislators from across parties skip panel meets

Updated on Mar 08, 2020 02:19 AM IST

In other words, 57% of TMC, 36% of BJP and 15% of Congress MPs in the upper house didn’t attend even one meeting of the standing committees in this period.

Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi.(PTI photo)
Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi.(PTI photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

As many as 39 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs, eight Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs and five Congress MPs are among 95 lawmakers who didn’t attend a single meeting of Rajya Sabha standing committees in February or during the recess of Parliament’s budget session when the panels reviewed the budget allocations for various ministries.

In other words, 57% of TMC, 36% of BJP and 15% of Congress MPs in the upper house didn’t attend even one meeting of the standing committees in this period.

The first phase of the budget session began on January 31 and lasted until February 11. The second phase started on March 2 after a recess and will run until April 3.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Anant Kumar Hegde and Dilip Ghosh, all of them BJP members; Trinamool floor leader Derek O’Brien; Lok Janshakti Party’s Chirag Paswan, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra; All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi ; Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal; and classical dancer Sonal Mansingh were among the prominent MPs who skipped panel meetings to review the ministry-wise demand for grants, according to data available with the Rajya Sabha secretariat.

Among other parties, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) MPs were absent from all meetings of panels that come under the jurisdiction of the Rajya Sabha. Samajwadi Party MPs maintained 100% attendance, according to the data.

Parliament of India has 24 department-related standing committees to review the functioning of central ministries. Eight of them fall under the jurisdiction of the Rajya Sabha and the remaining 16 come under the Lok Sabha. In all committees, MPs from both House are chosen as members.

The attendance of the lawmakers in eight department-related standing committees was monitored in line with Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s larger goal of improving the participation of MPs in meetings of House panels. Both Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla expressed concern over low attendance after a meeting on pollution had to be deferred for lack of quorum last November, when the national capital was shrouded in smog.

Trinamool’s O’Brien said: “We are glad that we are not attending these committee meetings in the last six weeks. The papers never reach the MPs on time. Papers for a meeting scheduled for the afternoon are sent in the morning! We will not allow standing committees to become rubber stamps. If we attend, we will do so after going through all relevant documents. We challenge the BJP to live-telecast the proceedings of these committees. It will be clear how these meetings are run. I will bring more facts to light next week.”

Hundred and nine BJP MPs are members of Rajya Sabha panels. The Congress has 33 MPs, Trinamool 14, SP four, AIADMK three and other parties 80 on the eight panels that have a combined strength of 243. Naidu had earlier informed the upper house that 95, or 39% of MPs in these committees, had zero attendance. The data didn’t include meetings called only to adopt reports.

Among the other MPs who didn’t attend these meetings were Trinamool’s Mimi Chakraborty, D Srinivas of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Nationalist Congress Party’s Majeed Memon, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s S Venkatesan and independent MP Parimal Nathwani. BJP’s Anil Baluni was unwell and couldn’t attend any meeting.

The review of demands for grants is a key function of the standing committee. The reviews offer a detailed insight into the work being done and money spent by ministries and shows what the government is focusing on. Because all demand for grants are not individually discussed on the floor of the House, the review meetings assume additional significance.

The panels under the Rajya Sabha are on health, transport and tourism, science and technology, commerce, personnel and law, home affairs and human resource development.

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