House panels to begin work starting June 3
Indian Parliament’s in-house panels will resume work on June 3 with a briefing from Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla on the situation arising out of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the ministry’s handling of it, officials aware of the plan said.
Bhalla will brief the standing committee on home affairs, chaired by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, said the officials, who requested anonymity.
After Parliament closed on March 25 as a part of the nationwide lockdown, no parliamentary committee meeting has taken place in the past two months. The standing committee on home affairs will be the first to meet since.
No other parliamentary committee had intimated plans to hold a meeting to the secretariat as of press time, but the panels on information technology and environment and the Public Accounts Committee are expected to announce their schedule shortly.
Discussions of the home ministry panel on Covid-19 assume importance because the ministry has played a pivotal role in imposing and enforcing the lockdown and offering relaxations in restrictions to the public from time to time. Bhalla’s briefing is expected to be followed by questions from members.
Sharma’s decision to resume in-camera meetings of the house panel at the Parliament complex comes after an ambitious plan for the panels to go online, amid a suspension of air and train travel, failed to take off amid concerns that the confidentiality of these standing committee meetings could be compromised.
Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla had asked officials to submit reports on the possibility of digital meetings but as train and flight services resumed, the officials felt there was no immediate need for online meetings because members are in a position to travel to Delhi.
Nine rooms in Parliament House and annexe have been identified for holding regular meetings of the 24 department-related standing committees and another six rooms are being prepared for other committees of both Houses, said an official.
Naidu and Birla have also told officials to arrange more chairs and microphones in the committee chambers to ensure social distancing.