With the resumption of Parliamentary standing committees, efforts are on to convene the monsoon session of Parliament, with a focus to clear ordinances brought by the Centre. Given the huge challenge both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats are facing right now to make seating arrangements in the Parliament, maintaining social distancing, the monsoon session is likely to be “very short”, suggest informed sources.
On June 5, the government brought ordinances that it claimed would be game changers. It amended the six-a-and-a-half decade old Essential Commodities Act, for ease of doing business with an objective to deregulate food items, including cereals, pulses and onions, in bid to raise farmers’ income.
The Centre also brought the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 for “better management & sound regulation of Cooperative banks”, as well as the APMC tweaking with a goal of ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’. But the ordinances, that are crucial for Centre’s effort to boost the economy intake of the lockdown slump, need to be passed by Parliament. Monsoon session’s primary goal will be to get these ordinances okayed by the Parliament, at the earliest.
The treasury bench will also be ready to make a statement on the India-China border stand-off, that killed 20 Indian brave hearts, presuming that the opposition will press for it. The Centre may use the Parliament to send a “strong message of unity”, as far as LAC aggression was concerned.
However, given the monumental challenge the Parliament is facing to reconvene, it is unlikely that a detailed session with a full business transaction can take place.
Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats have explored all possibilities including using a substitute venue like Vigyan Bhawan, to ensure seating with “do gaaz ki doori”, but none were big enough to accommodate the entire Indian Parliament, all together.
The capacity constraints have shot down any idea of a larger virtual session. In spite of Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu saying to “scale up capacities for larger virtual Parliament in due course”, Government sources suggest that is not going to happen immediately. Hence, sources say, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat is exploring seating members of the upper house in the house’s chamber as well as the galleries in conformity with the norm of physical distancing and to enable virtual participation of other members from either the Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium in the Parliament premises. The chamber and the galleries of the Rajya Sabha can accommodate 127 members while adhering to the physical distancing norms.
Meanwhile, “For enabling the viewing of participation of the members from outside the chamber of the House through virtual participation, it has been felt that screens need to be arranged both within the chamber of the House and outside as required,” sources said.
As for the Lok Sabha, the challenge is bigger, given the number of members is much higher than the upper house — 543 to be precise. Given that, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has held multiple meetings to brainstorm a solution that government’s need and opposition’s demand alike to bring a monsoon session without subjecting any member to health risks. The budget session this year was cut short abruptly on March 23, after one member Dushyant Singh came in contact with a COVID-19 positive singer. Singh later met other members, causing a sense of panic, with members like Trinamool leader Derek O’ Brien going into self quarantine.
But the treasury bench seems convinced it will find a solution and suggests it does not want to rush without adequate arrangements to keep the health consideration of all members in mind, amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The sense of government’s comfort also stems from the fact that the ordinances remain in force for six weeks after the Parliament is reconvened. Once it gathers, it must be approved by both Houses of Parliament for the ordinance to become a law.
So, the government does not find an immediate countdown to start for okaying the ordinances. However, sources in the government say, regardless of that, almost regular meetings are afoot to reconvene the Parliament, this monsoon.