After reconstitution, Parliamentary standing committees begin deliberations

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Times of India, October 20, 2021

Parliamentary standing committees are back to business after being reconstituted earlier this month. With a string of meetings scheduled this week to catch up with pending business, including finalising reports, and to firm up fresh agenda for committees to take up in the current year, the House panels will have a busy schedule in the run up to the Winter session of Parliament.

Key meetings lined up this week include that of the Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury-led Public Accounts Committee, which will have Defence ministry officials depose before it on the subject of “Provisioning, Procurement and issue of High Altitude, Clothing, Equipment, Ration and Housing” on Wednesday. The PAC will meet again on October 21 to hear depositions by the ministries of petroleum and natural gas, coal and education on the subject “Construction of toilets in schools by CPSEs”. The PAC will also circulate its draft reports (of previously discussed subjects) to members for their consideration and adoption.

The Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas, on the other hand, will take up ‘Pricing, Marketing and Supply of Petroleum Products including Natural Gas’, ‘Litigations involving Oil PSUs’, ‘Contract Management and Transparency in Procurement Procedures in Oil’, ‘Energy Security with specific reference to Hydrocarbon Resources and Electric Vehicles’ and a review of oil refineries for examination during the year 2021-22.

The Shashi Tharoor-led standing committee on Information Technology, on the other hand, like the Bhartruhari Mahtab-led House panel on Labour, will meet this week to firm up subjects the committees will examine in 2021-22. As per procedure, once committees finalise subjects, the selected agenda will be submitted to the concerned presiding officer – in this case Lok Sabha Speaker – for his approval before the subjects are notified in the Parliamentary bulletin. Substantive discussions on subjects can only begin after this procedure is completed.

Rajya Sabha-led standing committees on Home, Health and Family Welfare, Commerce, ‘Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports’ and Industry will also hold meetings to ‘chalk out (their) future programmes’.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection, on the other hand, which has been granted an extension until the Winter session of Parliament, will also hold multiple meetings this week, to carry forward a clause-by-clause discussion of the proposed amendments to the PDP bill in comparison with the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 as introduced in the Parliament.

The house panels have resumed their work after a month-long hiatus caused by the delay in reconstitution of the house committees. The tenure of the previous committees ended on September 12, while the presiding officers of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha reconstituted the panels on October 9. While most of the chairpersons of committees were retained, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi was appointed the new chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, in place of Bhupender Yadav, who was appointed minister in the last cabinet reshuffle.

There are 24 department-related parliamentary standing committees constituted every year. Each panel comprises 21 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had appealed to parties to nominate their members’ to various panels basis their interests and attendance.

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