Crucial question hour dropped from Parliament's monsoon session, outrage follows
The government's decision to disallow question hour during the monsoon session of Parliament, which begins on September 14, has brought it at the receiving end of criticism from the opposition. Further, Private Members' business, the one-hour period where MPs can furnish bills, has also been canceled, a notification by Rajya Sabha Secretariat said. These decisions were driven by the coronavirus crisis, the notification added.
All MPs would be tested for coronavirus: Om Birla
Last week, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla held a meeting with the officials of the Health Ministry, ICMR, AIIMS, DRDO, and Delhi government, to understand how the monsoon session would be convened amid surging coronavirus numbers. It was decided that all MPs and staffers would be tested 72 hours before the session starts. Arrangements for zero-touch security checks are also being made.
Parliament will be convened in two shifts
Days after the meeting, finer details on how the monsoon session will be conducted emerged. As per reports, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will be convened in two shifts to minimize crowding and honor social distancing. On the first day, i.e., September 14, Lok Sabha will sit from 9 am to 1 pm; and Rajya Sabha from 3 pm to 7 pm.
No holidays on weekends during upcoming session
The Upper House will sit between 9 am and 1 pm for the remaining days and the Lok Sabha will convene from 3 pm to 7 pm for the entire duration of the session, meaning till October 1. Weekends will be working days.
Displeased Derek O'Brien said pandemic being used as an "excuse"
While the question hour has been done away with, the zero hour would be held. However, the time duration has been brought down to 30 minutes. Expressing disdain over this move, Trinamool's Derek O'Brien said the pandemic was being used as an excuse to murder democracy. Brien also said this was the first time since 1950 that question hour has been removed.
MPs asked to submit questions 15 days in advance
MPs required to submit Qs for Question Hour in #Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts 14 Sept. So Q Hour cancelled ? Oppn MPs lose right to Q govt. A first since 1950 ? Parliament overall working hours remain same so why cancel Q Hour?Pandemic excuse to murder democracy— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 2, 2020
Tharoor reminded questioning government is "oxygen" of democracy
Congress' Shashi Tharoor had similar concerns. "I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy and dissent," the Lok Sabha representative from Thiruvananthapuram said. "Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This government seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board," one of his tweets read. He also asked how is this move justifiable.
According to Tharoor, NDA was misusing its crushing majority
2/2 Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This Govt seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board uses its crushing majority as a rubber-stamp for whatever it wants to pass. The one mechanism to promote accountability has now been done away with.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 2, 2020
Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Birla regarding question hour
Earlier when speculations suggested the same, Congress' leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Birla urging him to not curtail the question hour. He told Birla that acting against question hour would "not be in the interest of elected members," especially during the current crisis. Appreciating the steps Birla took for the session, Chowdhury asked him to consider this request as well.