NEW DELHI: Chairman of parliamentary committee on Information Technology Shashi Tharoor has reiterated his demand to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla for urgently allowing parliamentary panels to make use of video conferencing for their meetings, citing UK's example.
In a letter to Birla, the senior Congress leader said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has increased in a dramatic manner over the past few days which has raised serious questions about the health and safety of not just frontline healthcare workers but of all citizens.
Members of Parliament have a responsibility to the nation via their constituencies to ensure that they are carrying out their duties to the best of their abilities, Tharoor said.
"Those duties clearly include, constitutionally, parliamentary oversight of government work.
Time is of the essence, we need to get to work, but we must of course work with respect for the guidelines issued by our authorities to ensure social distancing is maintained," the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said.
"You are the custodian of the House of the People and the ultimate authority on all matters relating to the functioning of the Lok Sabha.
I therefore appeal to you to allow us to have the use of video conferencing at the earliest," Tharoor said.
"I understand the objection you have received is regarding the risk that confidentiality may be compromised since cameras are involved.
This is easily addressed by restricting logins to members and official note-takers only and reminding MPs of their oath of confidentiality," he said.
After all, regular meetings are also recorded for purposes of maintaining a verbatim record and this would be no different, he said.
"As an example, our colleagues in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom have been using video conferencing technology to even carry out prime minister's questions, question hour etc if it can be carried out in one country, there is no reason why we cannot do it in ours," Tharoor said.
"Aside from parliamentary efficiency, we need to do this for the promotion of Indian technology, to demonstrate the quality of our skilled IT professionals; and we should take this opportunity to demonstrate to the country that despite our political differences, as elected representatives of the people we are united in our commitment to the country's well-being," he said.