Allowance didn’t improve attendance at parliamentary panel meets, reveals report
NEW DELHI: A special allowance for attending parliamentary standing committee meetings, which was discontinued in 2018, did not improve the attendance of lawmakers at such meets, according to a report Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu sought last month.
Naidu asked the Rajya Sabha secretariat to prepare the report after some lawmakers said at an informal interaction with him that the special allowance was an added incentive for many to attend the meetings regularly. The report analysed attendance at parliamentary standing committee meetings when the lawmakers were entitled to the allowance.
Lawmakers get ₹2,000 as a daily allowance for attending Parliament and House panel meetings. They also received the special allowance amounting to 25% of the cost of their air travel to attend the meetings before it was done away with when late Arun Jaitley was the finance minister.
The secretariat studied the impact of the withdrawal of the allowance. It found that during the last five years, parliamentary panels have spent more time on meetings even as the Parliament sessions have often faced disruptions or washouts.
The report said the attendance of MPs at meetings of the eight parliamentary standing committees under Rajya Sabha has marginally dipped from the 2016-17 level due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During 2016-17 (mid-September to mid-September), when the allowance was available for the full year, the average attendance at 119 meetings of 8 DRSCS [Department-related Standing Committees] was 47.64% and it increased to 48.79% for 119 meetings during 2019-20 when such allowance was not allowed,” the report said.
“During 2017-18, the special allowance was available for 6 months. During 2018-19, all the 8 committees of Rajya Sabha reported low attendance, perhaps, due to the General Elections to Lok Sabha in the first half of 2019. Accordingly, 2016-17 was taken as the reference year for assessing the impact of meeting allowance to MPs on attendance during 2019-20 and 2020-21,” it said.
The average attendance increased from 47.64% in 2016-17 to 48.79% in 2019-20. It dropped to 44.59% in 2020-21 due to Covid.
Naidu asked the secretariat to find out the rate of attendance when this allowance was in place even as there was no plan to revive it. The study was done to see how the attendance of MPs can be improved.
Low attendance at parliamentary committee meetings came up during an informal meeting of senior lawmakers with Naidu at his chamber after Parliament’s winter session concluded on December 22.
The issue was also discussed on December 21 at a meeting between Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and chairpersons of 16 House standing committees.