New Delhi: Parliamentary committees headed by opposition and non-NDA leaders have been more keen on holding a sitting of the panels to hold the government accountable for the issues relating to the COVID-19 fightback, migrants and the economy while chairpersons and members from the ruling parties have been evasive, citing various reasons like preoccupation of lawmakers in battling the pandemic and fear of quarantine after return from Delhi.

The fear of being quarantined for up to 14 days upon return to their home state after attending the meeting of a parliamentary committee in the national capital has been cited by some members as the reason for their inability to attend. Though rail and air travel are returning to normal, some members across the political divide have also said they will not be able to make it to the national capital. Incidentally, many MPs from state neighbouring Delhi often travel by road to the capital.

ET has learnt that apart from the ruling party, a DMK Lok Sabha MP has also informed the chairperson of a parliamentary panel he is apprehensive of being quarantined when he returns to Tamil Nadu. A Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala has cited the same reason.

This may not be a valid excuse as Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister and Bangalore North MP DV Sadanand Gowda did not have to quarantine himself after his return from Delhi to Karnataka a few days back. This has set a precedent for exempting MPs.

“Some states do not require you to quarantine yourself when you enter the state (provided you have no symptoms of COVID-19). In any case, if one visits Delhi and returns within 72 hours one does have to undergo quarantine. Like in my case, if I go from Bhubaneswar to Delhi and return within 72 hours, I will not have to be kept in quarantine,” Bhartruhari Mahtab, who heads the Standing Committee on Labour, told ET.

BJP MPs have expressed inability to attend parliamentary committee meetings on the grounds that they are busy in their constituency or their state (in case of Rajya Sabha MPs) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each Standing Committee has 31 members- 20 from the Lok Sabha and ten from the Rajya Sabha, plus the chairperson. Since BJP has an overwhelming majority with 303 members in the 545 member Lok Sabha, their numbers are high in most of the parliamentary committees. Their absence will mean the meetings have thin attendance.

Committees headed by opposition and non-NDA leaders are keen on holding meetings. Shashi Tharoor (Chairperson, Standing Committee on Information Technology) and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Public Accounts Committee Chairperson) wish to convene a meeting in the second week of June.

Home Affairs Standing Committee Chairperson Anand Sharma had scheduled a meeting on June 3 but had to postpone it as several members expressed inability to attend.

Standing Committees on External Affairs, Defence, Railways, Social Justice and Empowerment have not yet decided to convene a meeting. These are headed by BJP MPs.

Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP), who heads the Committee on Public Undertakings, said she will wait for the Speaker’s word. “Until the Speaker unveils the plan, I will not convene a meeting. Most of the MPs are busy in their constituencies due to COVID-19,” she said.

Data shows that the average attendance in these meetings is around 45 per cent. This means that on most occasions around 14 MPs of the total of 31 attend the standing committee meetings.

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