Several senior leaders may skip monsoon session due to Covid-19
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to his office, will attend the inaugural day of the session on September 14 but might be uncertain for the remaining part of the session, which goes on till October 1, as his doctors have strictly advised him against leaving his home. Singh is 87.Updated: Sep 11, 2020, 01:04 IST
Many senior lawmakers are likely to give the much-awaited monsoon session of Parliament a miss, on account of fears of exposing themselves to the coronavirus disease even as Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha authorities are doing everything they can to ensure a safe session.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to his office, will attend the inaugural day of the session on September 14 but might be uncertain for the remaining part of the session, which goes on tillOctober 1,as his doctors have strictly advised him against leaving his home. Singh is 87.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already decided that some of her MPs who are old or suffer from ailments will not attend Parliament. Trinamool’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay will not come to Delhi but will guide the MPs from Kolkata.
Bandopadhyay, whose official bungalow in Delhi has been devastated due to rains, said: “Our leader is very cautious about our health. She told me not to go to Delhi in this situation.”
According to Trinamool officials, two of its MPs who are former UPA ministers—Sisir Adhikary and Choudhury Mohan Jatua — may also skip this session. Adhikary is 78 and Jatua, 82.
Rajya Sabha officials said that the Trinamool has also officially informed the secretariat that two of its MPs from the Upper House would not come.
Congress leaders added that former defence minister AK Antony, 79, may not attend the House daily but be there on some days. Similarly, Congress leader and former UPA minister Vayalar Ravi, 83, too may not attend the house every day. Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has left for the US for a routine health check. Both Antony and Ravi are members of the Rajya Sabha.
The average age of Lok Sabha MPs is 54 and that of Rajya Sabha MPs, 63. Older people, especially those with co-morbidities, and men are at greater risk from Covid-19. Men account for 85.6% of Lok Sabha MPs and 89% of Rajya Sabha MPs.
Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu have started personally overseeing all preparations. On Thursday, Birla spent a few minutes in the gallery of the Lok Sabha to supervise how MPs will participate in the proceedings.
As a matter of abundant caution, Birla has decided that not many physical copies of papers will be available in the chamber and MPs will mark their attendance in an app and not physically sign in a log book.
It has been also decided that not all ministers will be required to lay their documents in the House and that on behalf of his ministerial colleagues, the parliamentary affairs minister will lay the papers.
“Adequate arrangements have been made to ensure that the session is held in a smooth manner by ensuring compliance with all Covid-19 related health and safety guidelines,” Birla said on Thursday.
While many Opposition leaders and experts have criticised the decision to scrap Question Hour, Birla said: “Parliament represents the hopes and aspirations of our countrymen and even in the present scenario and it will fulfil its constitutional responsibility of ensuring accountability of the government.”
There will be seating arrangements for 257 members in the Lok Sabha hall and 172 members in the Lok Sabha galleries. Arrangements have been made for seating 60 members in the Rajya Sabha hall and 51 members in Rajya Sabha galleries
All lawmakers, officials and journalists covering Parliament will be required to undertake RT-PCR tests before coming to Parliament. Facilities to conduct tests have been set up across the capital and Birla has also ensured that no visitors will be allowed in the complex. “Even the private assistants to MPs and ministers can’t go inside the main parliament building. Government officials who come to parliament can’t bring their car inside,” Birla said.
Meanwhile, as tests are underway among parliament officials, senior officials added that about 50 House officials have been tested positive for Covid. “They have been sent into isolation and their offices are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. We are not taking any risk,” said a senior official.