Parliamentary panels have started scrutinising the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country a little over three months after Parliament was adjourned ahead of its schedule due to the virus and a shorter timeframe to hold the standing committee meetings would not have been possible given the present situation, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said on Sunday.
In a Facebook post hailing the media’s role during the pandemic, the Vice President also said Parliament is on course for holding the Monsoon session.
The Rajya Sabha chairman said he has held several rounds of discussions with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on enabling the meetings of the parliamentary committees and the Monsoon session of Parliament.
“Given the corona-induced social distancing norm, the logistics of seating of MPs required detailed deliberation and planning. The government also recently reached out to both the presiding officers (M Venkaiah Naidu and Om Birla) on holding the Monsoon session.
“We are on course,” M Venkaiah Naidu said.
With the easing of restrictions on domestic air travel in May and to a lesser degree on rail travel, the department-related standing committees of both Houses of Parliament have resumed their meetings this month, he pointed out.
They have undertaken an examination of various aspects of the management of the pandemic and its fallout, M Venkaiah Naidu said.
“This, in effect, means the required parliamentary scrutiny of the handling of the pandemic started in about three and half months of the last sitting of the apex legislature of the country. Any other shorter timeframe may have not been possible given the situation prevailing in the country,” he asserted.
Some members of Parliament had suggested holding the standing committee meetings online due to the pandemic and the resultant lockdown.
But the committees met physically.
At least four parliamentary panels have met in the last few days and the ones relating to home affairs and science and technology have discussed various aspects of the pandemic.
M Venkaiah Naidu pointed out that the Budget session had to be cut short a few days ahead of the schedule as the MPs wanted to be with the people in this hour of crisis.
Both Houses were adjourned sine die on March 23. According to the provisions of the Constitution, Parliament has to meet within six months of the last sitting. Normally, the Monsoon session starts in July with some exceptions over the years.
“This year, we are living in abnormal times due to the pandemic. The central and state governments are engrossed in handling the pandemic for the last over four months on a day-to-day basis,” M Venkaiah Naidu pointed out.
Referring to journalists, he said the media, as the fourth pillar of democracy, is often said to be the bridge between parliamentary institutions and people by enabling a two-way communication.
“This role has assumed even more significance during the time of the pandemic,” the vice president said.