Join advisory panels, keep them alive: Govt tells MPs

New Delhi: Parliamentary committees have become so inactive that the government has had to invite members to join some ministerial consultative committees at the earliest to ensure that they are “kept alive”.

On December 9, two days after the winter session began, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs notified: “At present the membership of the Consultative Committees for the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been reduced to ten (10), which is insufficient for the continuance in existence of any Consultative Committee:’

“Therefore, the Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha) are requested to submit their willingness, if they so desire, to this Ministry for nomination to the Consultative Committees of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Minority Affairs. Consultative Committees To keep alive. Members may send their wishes at the earliest…,” the notice said.

Soon after, on 14 December, junior parliamentary affairs minister Arjun Ram Meghwal told the Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question by Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy: “As per the Constitution and the guidelines regulating the functioning of advisory committees, each ministry Six sittings in a year. Out of six sittings, four are mandatory in a calendar year. Consultative Committees for the 17th Lok Sabha were constituted on 31st October, 2019 and required number of sittings due to COVID-19 pandemic 2020 Consultative committees could not be held during:

Roy sought details from the ministry of (a) date-wise and ministry-wise total number of Consultative Committee meetings held during the last three years; and (b) whether as per the norms each Ministry holds adequate meetings and if so, the details thereof.

Meghwal’s detailed information on the total number of consultative committee meetings held in the last three years – 2019, 2020 and 2021 – revealed that Finance, Minority Affairs, Women and Child Welfare, Coal and Mines, Culture and Tourism, IT and Communications, Ministries such as food processing, road transport and highways, power and new and renewable energy, and MSME did not have a single meeting in 2019.

The railways panel has held just one meeting in December 2019, before the pandemic, and no other meetings were held in 2020 and 2021.