Parliament Monsoon Session: First pandemic-era session begins today

In the first, the two Houses– the Lok Sabha and the Rajay Sabha– will work in separate shifts without any weekend offs for the members who would not be allowed inside the premises without a negative COVID-19 report and a mask.
Parliament of India
Parliament of India

The Parliament is all geared up to begin the 18-day Monsoon Session from today under the shadow of pandemic-induced guidelines and strict social distancing norms.

The first session of the COVID-19 era is expected to be stormy as the Opposition has plans to corner the government over a host of contentious issues such as handling of the pandemic, economic crisis, rise of unemployment and dismal GDP figures.

The last session was the Budget Session which was held in March and had to be cut short because of the COVID-19.

The two Houses– the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha– will work in separate shifts without any weekend offs for the members who would not be allowed inside the premises without a negative COVID-19 report and a mask.

This session will be the fourth session of the 17th Lok Sabha and 252nd session of Rajya Sabha and will conclude on October 1. The Monsoon Session that usually starts in mid-July had to be pushed back due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The session will follow staggered timings to accommodate members of one House at a time in both chambers as per the strict social distancing norms. In all, there will be 18 sittings, including two working Saturdays and Sundays.

Each house will operate for four hours each day, except the opening day. The Lok Sabha will operate between 9 am and 1 pm on the first day of the session today.

But from September 15 onwards till October 1, the Lok Sabha will sit for four hours daily between 3 pm and 9 pm. The Rajya Sabha will sit between 3 pm and 7 pm on the first day and for the rest of the session it will function for hours every day between 9 am and 1 pm.

The two-hour break (1 pm to 3 pm) between the two Houses will be used to disinfect both the chambers, officials said. Unlike usual proceedings, the Question Hour- the first hour of the session where the members ask questions to the ministers- has been reduced to “un-starred” questions for 30 minutes.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had held a series of discussions with officials of the Union Home Ministry, Union Health Ministry, ICMR and the DRDO to make the Parliament complex a safe zone. As per the standard operating procedures for the Monsoon Session, the MPs and staff of secretariats of both Houses and the media personnel covering the proceedings, had to undergo COVID-19 test, within 72 hours of the start of the session. A special seating arrangement following social distancing guidelines has been prepared by both houses for the members.

Sonia, Rahul to miss first few days

Interim president of the Congress, country’s main opposition party Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi will not attend the first ten days of the session, according to the sources. Rahul is accompanying his mother Sonia for a health check-up abroad.

The proceedings are expected to be stormy with the Opposition set to corner the government on issues such as handling of the pandemic, economic crisis, rise of unemployment and dismal GDP figures.

Opposition is also expected to attack the government for naming of CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury; political activist Yogendra Yadav, JNU professor and economist Jayati Ghosh; Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, and filmmaker Rahul Roy in a supplementary chargesheet related to the Delhi riots last week.

As per the business schedule of Parliament, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will make a statement regarding the government’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic in both houses of the parliament. The election of deputy speaker of Rajya Sabha is also expected to take place on the first day.

Important bills

The government has listed 38 new bills, including 11 to replace ordinances, for introduction in the 18-day session.

Among the ordinances that to be taken up include the one seeking to provide preventive measures against violence on healthcare workers. An ordinance pertaining to reduction in the salary of MPs by 30% for a period of one year beginning April 1, 2020 is also listed in the schedule. The amount will be utilised in the fight against coronavirus.

Among the key bills to be introduced is the The Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill, 2020. As per the bill, Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, will be the official languages in the Union Territory.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, replacing ordinances, will also be introduced in this Session. The Congress, the Left, among other Opposition parties, have opposed the ordinances.

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