19 Sep 2020
As coronavirus cases rise, Monsoon Session could be cut short
Since the session started on September 14, nearly two dozen parliamentarians, including Cabinet Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Patel, have tested positive.
Though the session is scheduled to end on October 1, it could be wound up earlier.
Background: In a first, parliamentarians remained seated while addressing House
A staggered seating arrangement was put in place, MPs were ordered to always wear masks, and maintain social distancing.
Moreover, in an unprecedented move, MPs addressed the Chair while being seated.
On the first day itself, several MPs tested positive
Evidently, on the first day of the session, several MPs had tested positive. While parliamentarians are well aware of the risk, the sudden diagnosis of Vinay Sahasrabuddhe has left them worried.
The BJP leader, who tested negative last Friday, revealed on September 17 that he had contracted the infection.
By then, he had spoken in the Rajya Sabha, thereby increasing the risk quotient.
Sahasrabuddhe must have spent time in Central Hall: TMC leader
Wish this MP a speedy recovery from #COVID He made a 15 min speech in #Parliament sitting in the Treasury Benches. He would have also spent time in RS lobby Central Hall. I appeal to all RS colleagues who came into contact with him or were sitting near him, Please Isolate. https://t.co/x5hu6HArM7— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 18, 2020
Session could even be wrapped up by early next week
With infections surging, the government is pondering about trimming the session's duration.
Citing sources, Indian Express reported that if 11 ordinances, that were promulgated earlier, get Parliament's nod, the session will end soon.
The NDA-led Centre hopes to get them passed in the first half of next week. Further, two MPs told the daily that the session could end by the middle of next week.
In the meantime, newer rules have been introduced
Until the session ends, stricter guidelines have been introduced, IE added.
As part of the rules, MPs, media persons, and staff members will have to take the antigen test daily. The entry of former MPs, MLCs, and MLAs has also been restricted.
Moreover, officials escorting MPs will be permitted into the complex only after they furnish a negative RT-PCR report, taken within 72 hours.
Earlier, Naidu stopped MPs from visiting other members' seats
In the last few days, Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu were often seen pulling up MPs, if they didn't adhere to coronavirus-induced guidelines.
Naidu ordered that MPs would neither come to the Table office nor visit the seats of other members. They can, however, pass slips for communication.
"It's not allowed in examination halls but is allowed here," Naidu quipped.
Indo-China conflict, coronavirus, farm Bills kept parliamentarians busy this week
Notably, issues like the Indo-China conflict, the migrant crisis sparked due to lockdown, deaths of doctors, battered economy, and three controversial farm Bills kept both Houses occupied in the initial days of the Monsoon Session.
The Lok Sabha is yet to consider the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) 2020.
To make the most of the session, both Houses are conducting sessions on weekends as well.