Fixed rate for hospital beds, efforts to stop black marketing of medicines used for treatment of Covid-19 patients and possibility of an early vaccine were some of the issues that were raised at the meeting of parliamentary committee of Home Affairs on Wednesday.

During the meeting, there was also discussion on the possibility of making changes in the law and including pandemic in the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Members believed that there should be a greater discussion on the issue and a possible recommendation could be sent to the union government.

“Some of the members were keen that not just natural disasters or accidents, this is the time to take a relook at the entire law of disaster management in the country and pandemic should now be included in the law. Members also argued that ways and means to meet the challenge of pandemic should also be discussed in the law,” said a senior leader aware of developments.

While talking about the availability of hospitals beds, members of the home affairs committee also raised questions that different private hospital were charging different rates, exorbitant rates and there was an urgent for the union government to intervene and raise this issue with state governments.

“The union government through Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah had intervened in Delhi to control the exorbitant charges of hospital for Covid-19 patients. It had also written letters to state governments asking them to take steps to control the situation,” the person quoted above added.

The meeting of the committee, chaired by senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma, on Wednesday was called to discuss action taken by the union government in the view of covid-19 particularly with respect to coordination between state governments and unlocking process. In the meeting, members also raised questions over black marketing of medicines and drugs that were being used for Covid-19 patients and how the situation can be brought under control along with discussing what was the possibility of a vaccine or a drug to cure Covid-19 in the country.

“The representatives of the health ministry informed the committee that work was going on for a vaccine but no dates or timeline was given to the committee. The representatives of home ministry informed the panel that state government have been informed of the situation and they have been asked to take strict action,” an official said requesting anonymity and added that the meeting lasted nearly three hours with detailed presentations from ministries.

In the course of the meeting which was attended by 11 of the 30 members, majority of the members were from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), committee members raised concerns about the migrant crisis and the efforts made by the union government to ensure availability of trains and busses on their way home.

“It is sad that the standing committee on Home Affairs was meeting for so long yet most of the members of opposition parties chose to skip this meeting which was on Covid-19. The over 3-hour long meeting started with a presentation on Covid-19 situation in the country by the home secretary. Representatives of Railway ministry and health ministry were also present for the meeting,” another leader aware of developments added.

The home affairs committee members have also asked the union government for details on the number of trains and busses that were organised for migrant labourers who were returning home during the nationwide lockdown. Railway ministry will provide the data and it will also inform the committee on the number of trains requested by each state governments and how many were provided along with the number of busses will also be provided.

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