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Hold meetings of parliamentary panels virtually: Congress and TMC to Rajya Sabha chairman

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New Delhi, May 09: The opposition Congress and TMC have written to presiding officers of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to allow virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees, saying Parliament cannot be a mute spectator to the COVID crisis and must give a message of solidarity with people.

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In a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said parliamentary panels can contribute to the ongoing endeavours in containing the pandemic and providing relief to people.

"At this hour of collective crisis, the Parliament of India cannot be and must not be a mute spectator. It must give a message of solidarity with the people, of serious business to alleviate their agony and of unity of purpose," he said.

The senior Congress leader said the Department Related Standing Committees are an effective, non-partisan mechanism of Parliament and the tradition of collective brain-storming in the committees is a cherished achievement of the parliamentary system.

"The meetings of the Standing Committees at this juncture will provide the nation much required collective initiative across the party lines. They are an effective instrument to ensure accountability, to provide an institutional platform to all stakeholders and to collectively explore solutions.

"It is in this spirit that I urge you to allow the virtual meetings of the Standing Committees," he said in his letter.

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Trinamool Congress' national spokesperson Derek O'Brien wrote to Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on the same issue.

"India has reported more than three lakh new COVID-19 cases per day for the past two weeks.

"In light of the prevailing circumstances, I urge your good offices to reconsider our request for conducting virtual meetings of parliamentary committees, including departmentally related standing committees, consultative committees and select committees," he said.

This is the TMC's third letter on the issue, the party said, adding that the first was sent in July 2020 and the next in August 2020.

The opposition parties had raised a similar demand in July last year after the COVID pandemic outbreak. Both Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman had then communicated that virtual meetings of parliamentary committees could not be allowed because of the confidentiality clause and it could only be altered by Parliament.

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