Close to 100 legislators in India have been found to have skipped panel meetings, even as there are increasing restrictions on debates and deliberations on various issues in the country. A new report by Hindustan Times says that 95 lawmakers didn’t attend a single meeting of Rajya Sabha standing committees in February. Around 39 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs, eight Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs and five Congress MPs have skipped meetings even during budget allocation sessions.
The report noted that, “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.”
This is not the first time. In November 2019, when the national capital was hit by a major pollution crisis, around 25 MPs had skipped parliamentary meeting on the issue plaguing Delhi.
Recently, in December 2019, Venkaiah Naidu, Rajya Sabha chairman had expressed concern over the low attendance and had urged the political parties to attend these panels to ensure quantitative and qualitative functioning. "The thrust is to be regular in attendance and focus on quality debates. Parliamentary committees are mini-Parliaments and have a huge responsibility," Naidu had said.
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“Each member of the department-related standing committee represents 25 members of Parliament while deliberating in the committee. If one member is absent, the voice of 25 MPs would not be heard. Hence, I appeal to leaders of all parties and members of this august House to ensure quantitative and qualitative functioning of these committees in whom the Parliament has vested an important responsibility of functioning on its behalf,” he had added.
According to the report, many prominent MPs skipped panel meets to review ministry-wise demand for the grants. Among those who skipped the meeting were - 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.
It must be noted that Indian Parliament has 24 department-related standing committees of which eight fall under the dominion of the Rajya Sabha and the rest 16 fall under the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha handles several important panels on health, transport and tourism, science and technology, commerce, personnel and law, home affairs and human resource development. The Rajya Sabha Panels consists of 109 BJP MPs while Congress has 33 MPs, Trinamool has 14, SP has four, AIADMK has three and other parties 80, making up to the total strength of 243.
In December, Naidu had said, that if the attendance remains low as it was, he would be forced to remove MPs who miss two or more meetings in a row. However, nothing major has been done to keep a check while the legislators continue to skip one after the other panel meeting.