NEW DELHI: The 18-day long Monsoon session of Parliament started on Monday under strict social distancing protocols amidst coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time in the history of Indian Parliament that both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha chambers have been integrated for holding a session. Here are the top developments:
It will be a productive session: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the media upon his arrival at the Parliament for the monsoon session. The Prime Minister said that he hopes this session will be productive. “There is corona & there is duty. MPs chose the path to duty. I congratulate & express gratitude to them,” he said. In a reference to the ongoing standoff at Ladakh border between India and China, the PM said, “I believe that all members of the Parliament will give an unequivocal message that the country stands with our soldiers.”
Business for the day
* The immediate business are two medical related bills in Lok Sabha while the upper House will see the election of a deputy chairperson, with JD(U)’s Harivansh expected to canter home as the NDA nominee against RJD’s Manoj Jha, who is the candidate of Congress and some other non-NDA parties.
* There will be obituary references to the late Pranab Mukherjee, India’s 13th President, after which the two Houses are expected to function though opposition parties plan to submit a host of adjournment notices on various issues.
* Health minister Harsh Vardhan will make a statement on the Covid-19 situation in both Houses.
* The two Houses are to take up motions to allow them to run without question hour and discussion on private members’ bills which should draw protests from the opposition that an important part of Parliament is being scuttled.
* BJP managers have said answers to unstarred questions will be submitted and various state assemblies have also adopted similar practices.
Social distancing measures
* MPs sitting with plastic sheet separators and microphones on podiums in visitors’ galleries, where individual seats do not have mikes.
* The Parliament secretariat has facilitated MPs with the option to mark their attendance digitally through an app —Attendance Register — developed by the NIC. There will be 18 continuous sittings till October 1 during which 45 bills, two financial items and 11 ordinances are to taken up.
* Both Houses will sit for four hours each every day without weekend breaks.
* Presiding officers will be dealing with MPs in a rather different way given the use of masks and face shields. It remains to be seen if the usual “rushing into the well” takes place as this is bound to violate social distancing norms.
* Only 257 members will be present in the Lok Sabha chamber and 172 MPs in the Lok Sabha galleries. Arrangements have been made for 60 members to sit in the Rajya Sabha chamber and 51 members will be seated in the galleries. Seats have been allotted in proportion to strengths like 32 of the 51 Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha chamber.