Have lawmakers lost interest in the parliamentary committees?

The dismal state of the parliamentary standing committees reported by Prothom Alo on Saturday is disappointing. There are 50 committees in the parliament. Among them 39 are on ministries and 11 are subject-based. These committees are supposed to hold meetings once a month. Except for few, none of the committees hold meeting regularly while several hold more than one meeting in a day to comply with the rules.

The eleventh parliament has already finished three years of its term. It is justified that they could not meet during corona. But what could be the reason for not meeting before the corona outbreak and after?

Prothom Alo has reviewed details of 128 meetings of 10 parliamentary committees in the last three years. It shows that neither the subject-based parliamentary standing committees or committees on ministries held any meetings regularly. A large number of MPs are also absent in the meetings held occasionally.

All the members of the committee were present in only two of the 128 meetings mentioned. Of the 105 members of the 10 committees, attendance of 36 members of parliament in their respective parliamentary standing committees is below 50 per cent. This means that the members of parliament are ignoring the parliamentary activities.

Of the 10 committees reviewed by Prothom Alo, eight are ministry-related committees, respectively. These are the committees for the ministries of home affairs; power, energy and mineral resources; expatriate welfare and overseas employment; liberation war affairs; women and children affairs; railway; youth and sports; and shipping. The two subject-based committees are the parliamentary committee on public accounts and parliamentary committee on public undertakings.

The committees outside of these are not very active either. Prothom Alo reported on 23 May that the standing committee on the ministry of finance remained indifferent to the continuous rise in commodity prices, oil crisis in the market before Eid and the rise in the value of the dollar. The economic crisis was not on the agenda of the meeting they held after a gap of five months. Similarly, the parliamentary committee related to the ministry of commerce has been keeping silent. The committee has not met since last February.

Parliamentary committees act as the watchdog of the government in the parliamentary system. It is their responsibility to review the bills raised in the parliament as well as to hold the executive accountable. They can also investigate any matter if necessary. But when the members of the parliamentary committee are not interested in meeting, how will they hold others accountable? There are also instances where some members have not attended the committee meeting even once in the last three years.

Until the fifth parliament, the concerned ministers were the chairmen of the standing committees related to the ministries. The Awami League government began appointing MPs in the place of ministers from the sixth parliament. The accountability of the executive branch cannot be maintained by keeping the minister as the chairman of the parliamentary committee. In this context, the decision of the Awami League government was appreciated by all. But now it is seen that the members of parliament have no interest in parliamentary activities. have they lost interest?