The 18-day monsoon session of the Parliament began on Monday amid strict safety precautions owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Before the monsoon session began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he hopes that the members of the Parliament will unitedly send a message that the country stands with its soldiers. He was referring to the border dispute with China in eastern Ladakh.
No entry without coronavirus negative report
Ahead of the session, over 4,000 people including MPs and staff have been tested for coronavirus at a special facility created by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). As per new pandemic driven rules, even MPs and ministers will not be allowed inside Parliament without a coronavirus negative test report.
Till late night, secretariats of the two Houses were busy calling every MP individually getting details of their “negative certificates”. Those who have failed to submit their certificates of test conducted not more than 72 hours before the start of the session will not be allowed entry.
Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, Araku (Andhra Pradesh) MP Goddeti Madhavi, Nagaur (Rajasthan) MP Hanuman Beniwal, Buldhana (Maharashtra) MP Pratap Rao Jadhav, and Maharajganj (Bihar) MP Janardan Singh Sigriwal have tested positive for the coronavirus. They would be skipping the monsoon session.
Government is not running away, says Pralhad Joshi
Unlike other sessions, this time there will be no ‘Question Hour’ and a resolution in this regard was passed in the morning. Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said that it is an extraordinary situation. He said when the state Assemblies are not ready to meet for a single-day, the monsoon session of the Parliament has been convened. Additionally, he said there are so many ways to question the government and it is not running away from discussion.
Meanwhile, defence minister Rajnath Singh suggested that ‘Zero Hour’ can be used to question the government.
Instead of Question Hour, only written questions and answers will be allowed, which has hugely upset the opposition. “Question Hour is the golden hour but you say that it can’t be held due to the circumstances. You conduct the proceedings but single out Question Hour. You are trying to strangulate the democracy,” Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said in the Lok Sabha.
Two different shifts for Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha
The first-of-its-kind monsoon session will witness the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sitting in two different shifts. Barring the first day, Rajya Sabha’s morning shift will convene from 9 am till 1 pm, and Lok Sabha’s evening shift will take place from 3 pm to 7 pm. In between the two shifts, the entire complex will be sanitised.
Strict safety measures
The monsoon session is being held amid huge safety measures at the parliament building complex. The measures include seating MPs in a staggered way in chambers of both Houses, as well as galleries to maintain physical distancing. It also includes using a mobile app for registering attendance and seats separated with poly-carbon sheets in the House. Also, wearing masks have been made mandatory.
As a measure of added caution, there will be ultraviolet germicidal irradiation in the air conditioning system six times every day to avoid any spread of the virus.
All MPs will get multi-utility coronavirus kits containing 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitisers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.
These kits have been provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
47 legislative items scheduled in monsoon session
The government has planned a huge legislative agenda in the short session. Rajya Sabha is expected take up the election of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha on day one. If concluded, proceedings may include a brief address by the prime minister.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan will make a statement in both Houses of Parliament regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the steps taken by the government.
The government has lined up a total of 47 legislative items for the session. 45 Bills and 2 financial items have been listed for the 18 sittings. Notably, 11 Bills will be tabled for passing to replace the ordinance issued after March 23.
11 Bills to replace ordinances
The 11 Bills that are to replace ordinances are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Prices Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. It also includes The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020, The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
This apart, The Insolvency & Bankruptcy (Second) Amendment Bill, 2020, The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, will be also tabled.
Similarly, The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, The Salary and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020, The Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020, will be also tabled.
Important bills to be taken up
Some important bills likely to be taken up for passing are The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The Pesticides Management Bill, 2020. It also includes The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2019 as passed by Rajya Sabha, The National Commission for Homoeopathy (NCH) Bill, 2019 as passed by Rajya Sabha and The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020 as passed by Lok Sabha.
It also includes The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as passed by Lok Sabha and The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as passed by Lok Sabha.
Highest obituaries in a day
On the first day of the monsoon session, the highest-ever number of obituary references will be taken up by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. While there are 19 listed in the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha will take up 15.
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