Press Trust of india

Parliament all geared up for holding Monsoon Session

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New Delhi: Parliament is fully prepared for the 18-day Monsoon Session from Monday under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic with many firsts, including sitting of the two Houses in shifts without any off day, entry only to those having a negative COVID-19 report and compulsory wearing of masks.

In run-up to the session, while over 4,000 people including MPs and staff have been tested for COVID-19, most parliamentary operations have been digitalized, entire premises sanitised and doors made touch-free.

The first-of-its-kind Monsoon Session will see Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sitting in two different shifts, while special seating arrangements have been made for MPs in adherence to social distancing guidelines.

Barring on the first day, Rajya Sabha will convene in morning shift from 9 am till 1 pm, and Lok Sabha in evening shift from 3 pm to 7 pm. The chambers of both houses along with their respective galleries will be used for sitting of the members in each shift.

In between the two shifts, the entire complex will be sanitised.

Entry in the premises will be allowed only on production of a COVID-19 negative report, with the test conducted not more than 72 hours before the start of the session.

Frequent sanitisation of the entire parliament complex will also be carried out, while arrangements have been made to sanitise various parliamentary papers as well as footwear and cars of MPs, officials said.

Frisking of people will also make way for touch-less security scanning, while thermal scanning will also be totally touch-free.

For making the entire Parliament complex a safe zone in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had held a series of extensive discussions with officials of the Home Ministry, Health Ministry, ICMR and the DRDO.

As per the standard operating procedures finalised for holding the session from September 14 till October 1, the MPs and staff of secretariats of both houses, as also the media personnel covering the proceedings, will be asked to undergo COVID-19 test, not more than 72 hours before the start of the session.

Officials said arrangements were made for tests of close to 4,000 people, including the MPs, staff members and journalists. Only MPs and ministers will be allowed inside the main building, while necessary seating arrangements will be made for separate sitting of their personal staff in the complex.

A new seating arrangement following social distancing guidelines has been prepared by both houses for their respective members. The MPs will also be allowed to address the Chair while seated and wearing their masks so that the risk of infection might be minimised.

It has also been decided that air of air conditioners will be exchanged six times every day to avoid any possible infection. The DRDO will also provide multi-utility COVID-19 kits to all MPs.

Each kit will contain 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitisers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a touch-free hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.

The two houses together have more than 780 members at present. The Health Ministry has also suggested that the movement of Members of Parliament in chambers of both the houses can be made unidirectional to avoid face-to-face interactions.

The Ministry will make available short video clips to all MPs on awareness about COVID-19 infections and the benefits of wearing masks, etc.

Touchless sanitisers will be kept at 40 different places within the Parliament House complex, and emergency medical teams and ambulances will also be stationed.

All guidelines related to COVID-19 prevention will be strictly followed, the presiding officers of both houses have said.

The provision of ultraviolet boxes has also been made to sanitise various parliamentary papers handled by the presiding officers and members. Arrangements are also being made for sanitisation of footwear and cars used by the members and those provided by the Secretariat by providing mats of required dimensions soaked in Hypochloride gel placed in troughs.

Marshals will also wear masks and face shields.

Oppn demands discussion in Lok Sabha on standoff at LAC, economic slowdown

New Delhi:  Opposition parties have sought a discussion in Lok Sabha on the issues of economic slowdown, unemployment and standoff between Indian and Chinese forces during a meeting of floor leaders of the House on Sunday to discuss the agenda for the Monsoon session, DMK leader TR Baalu said.

A day before the start of the session, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla chaired the meeting of the business advisory committee (BAC) of the lower house.

Opposition leaders have sought discussions on the standoff between India and China at the LAC, unemployment and economic slowdown, Baalu said.

The DMK leader said he has also sought a discussion on issues such as revising the creamy layer for OBC and non-payment of states’ share of revenue collected under GST.

Birla told reporters after the meeting that the leaders of all parties have assured their support for the smooth functioning of the House.

He expressed the hope that Lok Sabha will transact a good amount of business.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi along with Arjun Ram Meghwal and V Muraleedharan, ministers of state in the same ministry, also attended the meeting.

Joshi said the government is ready for discussion on all issues which will be decided in the BAC.

He said the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere, and floor leaders will again meet on Tuesday to deliberate upon the agenda for the parliament session.

Asked whether the government is ready for a discussion on the standoff between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Joshi said it will be decided while keeping in mind national security and the country’s strategic interests.

According to sources, Lok Sabha will be adjourned briefly on Monday as a mark of respect to former president Pranab Mukherjee and a sitting MP who died recently.

And thereafter, sources said, the House may take up discussion on two bills which have already been passed by Rajya Sabha. A discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic can start on Tuesday.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also said on Sunday that his party wants a discussion in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the situation at the border with China and the state of the economy.

He also mentioned “closure of businesses and the state of the MSME industry, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues like airport privatisation, the draft EIA notification.”

“We hope the Opposition would get an opportunity to speak and serious national issues would be discussed. We expect the prime minister to be present in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and give a reply to the questions raised by us,” he said at a virtual press conference.

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