Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has requested all MPs willing to participate in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament to undergo RT-PCR test. Massive changes and logistics overhaul in Parliament have been planned to tackle any possible spread of Covid pandemic.
At a preparatory meeting, chaired by Birla on Friday, it was decided that the RT-PCR test that usually takes 24-48 hours to come up with the results will be conducted.
Officers attending the session and journalists who are covering the session will also undergo Covid tests, it was decided at the meeting attended by union health ministry, officials from the Indian Council of Medical Research, Defence Research and Development Organisation, AIIMS and the Delhi government.
The session will start on September 14 and run till October 1. The two Houses – Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha – will operate in shifts with the Lower House starting at 9 am and the other at 3 pm. A senior official added that the proceedings may even spill over to weekends if the agenda requires extra time.
Earlier, Uttar Pradesh assembly had asked all its MLAs to undergo Covid test when it met recently amid the pandemic but Chhattisgarh assembly withdrew its circular asking for a similar test for all its lawmakers.
It was also decided to set up a Covid test facility in Parliament itself where the MPs and others can come and get tested, said a senior official.
The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh, recommended that the session should last from September 14 to October 1, according to people familiar with the matter.
The dates will now have to be approved by the cabinet, which will then forward them to the President.
It has also suggested 18 sittings as the government has a total of 11 ordinances to clear, the people cited in the first instance added on condition of anonymity.
The government is also bracing for a demand from Opposition parties to debate the India-China border conflict, the Covid situation, the state of the economy, problems of migrant workers and the recent allegations against social media giant Facebook.
The Houses are being prepared for the session with measures such as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation of the air-conditioning system, 10 display screens for live proceeding, placards to indicate names of parties, earmarked seats for top leaders and special cables linking the two Houses.
While ministers, former PMs and floor leaders will get preference in the main chamber, many party MPs — even from the ruling party — will be accommodated in the galleries.
The government will aim to replace 11 ordinances during the session. This includes a cluster of agriculture-related ordinances promulgated during the Covid pandemic to help Indian farmers such as the Farmers Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) and the Farmers (Empowerment And Protection) Agreement On Price Assurance And Farm Services Ordinance and essential commodities amendment ordinance.