Shorter hours, new rules to mark this monsoon session of Parliament
The upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, which will be held between September 14 and October 1 amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, will have many firsts.
These include shorter hours, doing away with a set format of proceedings and many other such improvisations to ensure the safety of the Members of Parliament (MPs), the staff and media persons, who will cover the daily functioning of the session.
The last parliamentary session was cut short on March 25 following the viral outbreak and the day the nationwide lockdown restrictions were enforced for the next 68 days to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Usually, though the monsoon session begins in July, it had to be pushed back to mid-September this year owing to the contagion.
This session will see the House work for a shorter duration on a daily basis. However, there will be no break on weekends. Normally, after winding down business with the Private Member’s Bills on Friday, both the Houses used to reconvene on Monday after a two-day weekend break.
As per the revised schedule, the Rajya Sabha (RS) will meet between 9 am and 1 pm and the Lok Sabha (LS) between 3 pm and 7 pm.
On September 14, on the first day of the session, the LS proceedings will take place only in the first half of the day.
The government has decided to do away with the Question Hour, an hour-long slot that is given to lawmakers to raise questions about issues related to various ministries. The Union ministries will provide only written replies to questions put forth by the MPs instead of ministers giving replies on the floor of the House.
While the Opposition parties have objected to this decision and dubbed it as the “murder of democracy”, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has defended the move on the grounds that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have led to shorter work hours.
The BJP has also pointed out that the Question Hour has been dispensed with in several state assemblies, including Andhra Pradesh (AP), Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Maharashtra, because of the pandemic.
Coverage of parliamentary proceedings by the media, too, will be restricted. Only a select number of media personnel will be allowed access to the gallery to record the daily proceedings.
RS Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday held discussions with Union secretaries of Home Affairs, Health & Family Welfare, Defence Research and director-general, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on ensuring safety of MPs.
Naidu suggested that MPs should undergo Covid-19 tests in their own interest.
MPs will be allowed to wear masks inside the House and a frequent tab will be kept on ventillation to keep the viral infection at bay.
Covid-19 awareness video clips will also be shown to MPs.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) authorities will provide a host of sanitisation services.