The ongoing monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be curtailed and may end by the middle of next week in view of the threat of Covid-19 spreading among parliamentarians, official sources said on Saturday.
At a meeting of the business advisory committee of Lok Sabha, which has floor leaders of all parties besides the government representatives and is chaired by the Speaker, most political parties favoured curtailment of the session, which started on September 14 and was scheduled to conclude on October 1. A final decision will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
The Lok Sabha has so far passed three Bills to replace agriculture sector related ordinances. Also, both the Houses have cleared a bill to replace an ordinance for reducing the salaries of Members of Parliament (MPs) by 30 percent to ramp up funds for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
After some MPs, including Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Patel, tested positive for Covid-19 during the session, some opposition parties had conveyed to the government that conducting the full 18-day session could be a risky affair, sources said. About 25 MPs had also tested positive for Covid-19 around the time the session began and they were advised not to attend proceedings.
In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus within the parliament complex, reporters and parliamentary staff entering the premises now have to undergo the rapid antigen test on a daily basis, according to a new protocol put in place. Besides, members of both Houses are undergoing RT-PCR tests on regular intervals on a voluntary basis, said a senior Parliament official. According to sources, a member of Parliament can undergo the RT-PCR test as many times he or she likes. Government officials accompanying their respective ministers during bill discussions also have to show a negative report of RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours of their visit to the complex.
Both houses are currently meeting in shifts of four hours each without the customary Saturday-Sunday weekend break. The Budget Session was shortened and abruptly ended in March after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.