New protocol for parliament’s upcoming monsoon session
The Lok Sabha Speaker met union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, ICMR chief Dr Balaram Bhargava and DRDO and Delhi government officials on Friday.Updated: Aug 31, 2020, 04:09 IST
Doorstep Covid-19 tests for MPs, the freedom to deliver a speech in the House while seated, options to undergo real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test at their constituency before heading to Delhi, and one-way movement in the Central Hall and key corridors -- these are some of the new measures the Lok Sabha will see in its upcoming monsoon session, following Speaker Om Birla’s meeting with health sector experts last week.
The Lok Sabha Speaker met union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, ICMR chief Dr Balaram Bhargava and DRDO and Delhi government officials on Friday for a brainstorming session where he was quick to approve some new ideas, a top functionary aware of the proceedings at the meeting said on condition of anonymity.
For instance, Dr Guleria suggested that it would be better if MPs could talk while seated —a departure from the tradition of standing while speaking—as this would restrict any possible spread of aerosols, an idea that was approved.
He also suggested that since the home addresses and locations of all MPs are known, they could be administered RT-PCR tests before the session (and in many cases before the parliamentarians left for Delhi). Rajesh Bhushan, the Union health secretary suggested that the Vande Bharat experiment of asking passengers to conduct RT-PCR tests from their place of boarding a flight can be replicated for MPs. Vande Bharat Mission evacuees are allowed to undergo RT-PCR tests 96 hours before take-off. If they test negative, they avoid quarantine in the port of arrival. In the case of MPs who are living outside Delhi, it was decided to request them to undertake such tests in their constituencies 72 hours before coming to Parliament.
The much-awaited monsoon session of Parliament, delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be held between September 14 and October 1.
Dr Guleria also suggested that one-way movement should be enforced in some key corridors and the Central Hall of Parliament, according to the functionary. This measure, the AIIMS chief explained, would prevent MPs coming face-to-face with their colleagues and reduce the chance of infection. This suggestion was also accepted.
Indian Parliament will see major changes and severe restrictions during the monsoon session and both Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla are focusing on every detail to ensure the safety of lawmakers and workers in the Parliament complex that will house the session for 18 days. Visitors and media persons will not be allowed access to areas including the Central Hall during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. Media, however, will be allowed to cover the session from press gallery.
A second functionary familiar with the meeting and also the thinking in the speaker’s office said that Birla sees himself as the head of “this large family of Lok Sabha MPs”, and considers it his duty to ensure highest safety standards in the House. This person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Birla plans a special meeting between the MPs and Guleria, Bhushan and Bhargava. “In the proposed meeting, these health experts will explain details of the Covid virus and it will not just help MPs to take extra care but also educate people in their constituencies.”
Indian Tea Board and Indian Coffee Board have also been asked to supply the beverages in disposable paper cups and not use glass.