Parliament to run in shifts for Budget session: Officials
The Rajya Sabha is likely to work during the morning shift, and the Lok Sabha may convene next.
Parliament will go back to working in shifts, with the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha functioning at different times of the day, and a highly dispersed seating arrangement in place for lawmakers during the Budget session starting on January 31, officials aware of the matter said on Monday.
This will be second time, after 2021, that rising Covid-19 cases have caused the two Houses to function in a staggered manner during a Budget session, with the Upper House likely to work during the morning shift, and the Lower House to convene in the afternoons.
According to a senior official, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla spoke to each other and decided to implement a plan that was used during sessions held in 2020 and 2021.
“For the Budget session, RS to meet first and LS later in the day, as was the case for 252nd session in 2020 and first half of budget session in 2021,” said a senior Rajya Sabha official aware of the matter, asking not to be named.
Another functionary said that doubts remain if the session will run its scheduled course in the shadow of the third wave of Covid-19 cases, with several lawmakers and officials from both Houses affected. A third Parliament official said that elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, are another key factor that might result in a curtailed session.
The Union Budget will be presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha at 11am on February 1. The Lower House will meet from 4pm-9pm every day. The timings of Rajya Sabha sessions are to be decided by chairman Venkaiah Naidu but officials said the House would meet for five hours in the first half of the day.
The Budget session is perhaps the most crucial sitting of Parliament, and also its longest.
“Our main target is to ensure lawmakers and other people who come to Parliament remain safe. So, to minimise the crowd and keeping in mind social distancing, we might opt for two different timetables for the two houses...” said a fourth functionary involved in the discussions.
“In the monsoon session of 2020, we decided that the Rajya Sabha sits in the morning and the Lok Sabha in the afternoon...” he added.
The same arrangement may be followed now, the official indicated.