A decision on holding meetings of the parliamentary standing committees would be taken after May 17, when the third phase of the lockdown ends, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said Monday as he held the first meeting with senior officials of the Secretariat since the lockdown began on March 25.
Opposition parties had been demanding that the meetings be held through video links and had cited the proceedings held in parliaments of other countries using similar methods.
Mr Naidu said that in view of the extension of lockdown till May 17 and the need for an undivided focus of the Executive on containing the coronavirus outbreak, a view on holding the meetings of the department-related standing committees and other House panels will be taken later, according to an official statement.
During the hour-long meeting with the Rajya Sabha Secretary-General and other senior officials, he also discussed the oath-taking of new members elected unopposed, electing chairpersons of standing committees that have fallen vacant after retirement of members, physical distancing and safety norms and saving resources.
He directed the officials to initiate the process to fill vacancies of chairpersons of eight such committees.
These vacancies include the chairpersons of Standing Committees on Human Resource Development and Industries held by Satyanarayan Jatiya and K Keshava Rao respectively.
Chairmanship of three standing committees of Rajya Sabha - on Privileges, Subordinate Legislation and Papers Laid on the Table also fell vacant on the retirement of Harivansh, the deputy chairman, T Subbarami Reddy and CP Thakur, respectively.
Three other committees without a chairperson are on Ethics, MPLADS and Provision of Computers for Members of Rajya Sabha held by Prabhat Jha, Harivansh and Tiruchi Siva, respectively.
Mr Naidu was informed that there were 20 vacancies in Rajya Sabha.
These vacancies include 18 for which elections were deferred, one caused by the disqualification of Shri Sharad Yadav, which is sub-judice, and another caused by the demise of Beni Prasad Verma, the statement said.
On oath-taking by 38 members who have been elected unopposed, it was decided that the oath will be administered inside the Chamber of Rajya Sabha after the lockdown ends, if feasible before the next Session.
Mr Naidu also sought to know the details of the expenditure reduction plan.
Secretary General Desh Deepak Verma informed him that savings to the tune of Rs 60 crore has been identified against the annual budget of Rs 423 crore for the Secretariat for 2020-21.
He said a total saving of Rs 80 crore is being targeted as the financial year progressed.
Austerity measures identified include deferring of purchase of vehicles, keeping on hold international travel and training of officials, reduced study visits by committees, prioritisation of publications, putting on hold award of fellowships and internships under Rajya Sabha Research Scheme, not undertaking fresh recruitment for this financial year, increased use of e-office to save on stationary.
Mr Naidu directed officials for strict monitoring of expenditure to increase savings.
The Rajya Sabha chairman also sought details of safety norms being followed in the Secretariat which has been functioning since April 20 and also the work transacted by the Secretariat and the functioning of RSTV during the lockdown, the statement added.