Rajya Sabha committees fare well despite Covid pandemic: Survey
An analysis undertaken by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat at the behest of Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has found that the attendance has increased during 2019-20, despite the outbreak of COVID-19.A special allowance was granted to MPs earlier in 2016-17 when they were entitled to 25 per cent airfare for attending the committee meetings.
The attendance of members in parliamentary committees of Rajya Sabha saw an increase during the Covid pandemic despite the withdrawal of special allowance for MPs, according to a survey by the RS Secretariat.
Officials said contrary to the perception in some quarters, the withdrawal of the special allowance to the members of Parliament for attending the meetings of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees (DRSCs) has had no impact on their attendance in these meetings. An analysis undertaken by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat at the behest of Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has found that the attendance has increased during 2019-20, despite the outbreak of COVID-19.
A special allowance was granted to MPs earlier in 2016-17 when they were entitled to 25 per cent airfare for attending the committee meetings. This allowance was discontinued from April 1, 2018.
During 2016-17 (mid September to mid September), when the allowance was available for the full year, the average attendance in 119 meetings of eight standing committees was 47.64 per cent and it increased to 48.79 per cent for 119 meetings during 2019-20 when such allowance was not allowed.
During 2017-18, the special allowance was available for 6 months, officials said, adding that during 2018-19, all the 8 committees of Rajya Sabha reported low attendance, perhaps, due to the Lok Sabha elections 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, they said.
The parliamentary panels are reconstituted mid September with a tenure of one year.
The average attendance increased from 47.64 per cent during the reference year of 2016-17 to 48.79 per cent during 2019-20 despite the onset of Covid in March, 2020 and its peaking in September that year. The attendance however, fell marginally to 44.59 per cent for 136 meetings during 2020-21 as the country witnessed outbreak of more severe second wave of Covid during 2021. The internal analysis further revealed that four committees - Transport, Tourism & Culture; Health & Family Welfare; Education, Women, Child Development, Youth Affairs & Sports and Commerce have improved attendance during 2019-20 over that of 2016-17 while three committees - Home Affairs, Science & Technology and Law & Justice have maintained attendance of 2016-17. Only the committee on industry showed decline in attendance, the sources said.
During the two-year period of 2019-20 and 2020-21 when a total of 255 meetings were held by the 8 committees of Rajya Sabha, despite the pandemic, the officials said the average attendance has been 46.75 per cent, only marginally lower than that of 2016-17. For this two year period, four committees (Education, Commerce, Science & Technology and Law & Justice) have improved attendance over that of the reference year of 2016-17, they said.
Given the importance of DRSCs introduced in 1993, Naidu has been regularly reviewing the functioning of the 8 committees of Rajya Sabha and has been referring to the same in his opening and closing remarks for each session of the House. He had urged the chairmen of the 8 committees to ensure attendance of 50 per cent and average duration of 2 hours 30 minutes each meeting.
The analysis also revealed that the average duration of meetings of 8 DRSCs of Rajya Sabha has increased from 1 hour 48 minutes during 2016-17 to 2 hours 06 minutes for 2019-21. The Committee on Home Affairs reported the highest increase of 49 minutes per meeting followed by Commerce-48 minutes; Education-42 minutes; Transport-35 minutes and Industry-13 minutes. The Committees on Science & Technology and Health & Family Welfare maintained status quo.
On the last day of the winter session on August 23 last year, Naidu had directed the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to empirically examine the impact of withdrawal of special allowance to MPs on attendance in the meetings of 8 committees of Rajya Sabha.
Each committee with 31 MPs, 11 from Rajya Sabha and 20 from Lok Sabha is known as mini-Parliament. Twenty four such committees including 16 of Lok Sabha work round the year and take up detailed scrutiny of annual Demands for Grants of various ministries and departments besides examining and reporting on bills referred to them from time to time. They also take up suo moto examination of implementation of various policies and programmes of the government. Deliberations in these committees are generally above political divide.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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