COVID-19 fears rock Parliament

MPs raise concerns over stranded Indians, call adjourning session

Published - March 20, 2020 09:16 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Parliament House in New Delhi

A view of the Parliament House in New Delhi

Parliament on Thursday reverberated with concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the large number of Indians, students and others stuck abroad, and also the racial profiling of those from the northeast as carriers of virus.

As soon as Question Hour concluded, leader of the Congress legislative party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary expressed concerns over the handling of the Coronavirus, as well as the fate of many Indian students and others stuck abroad.


Call for PM’s statement

Trinamool Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyaya too demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in the House on the efforts to combat coronavirus. Prime Minister Modi address the nation via a television broadcast at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Shiv Sena's Vinayak Raut referred to the 58 Indian students struck at Singapore airport and urged the government to bring them home. He said out of the 58, 25 are women and they should not remain stranded there. “We have conveyed these concerns to Prime Minister Modi also, as he met with us this morning,” said Mr. Raut.

As matters under Rule 377 began, more and more members raised specific issues with regard to the pandemic. Raju Bista, BJP MP from Darjeeling said his constituency sees a large number of tourists but facilities for screening for the disease is not adequate. He raised the issue of racial profiling of people from the northeast.

“Lately we are seeing that people from the northest with different facial features are being singled out and racially profiled as carriers of coronavirus. I would like the government to give attention to this aspect of the issue as well,” he said.

Tackling rumours

MP from Mandya Sumalatha Ambareesh said while the virus was a big challenge, combating rumours circulating on social media was also a challenge. “This is the first pandemic in the age of social media and combating rumours is also important in the fight against the disease. I want to ask the government to set up a dedicated social media account just to bust fake rumours,” she said.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

Margani Bharat Ram of the YSRCP also raised the issue of Indian students stuck in the Phillipines and said arrangements should be made to bring them back and put them in quarantine here.

In Rajya Sabha again Congress members demanded that the Parliament session be deferred.

Congress MP B.P. Bhattacharya during Zero Hour raised a concern about the large quantities of official papers that each member receives every day, asking whether these papers are sanitised. “We have requested the Prime Minister to adjourn the House but unfortunately it is not being done,” he said. The House, he said, should be adjourned without any further delay.

Naidu rejects closure

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said adjournment is no solution and went on to state that hand sanitisers have been given to people dealing with papers. Members are free to give any suggestions, he said.

Speaking at a press conference, later Congress MP Anand Sharma said that it is an issue of health and safety of the Parliamentarians and other staff members. When all sort of restrictions have been imposed for the common man then why treat Parliament as an exception he asked.

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