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Masks debut in Rajya Sabha; MPs demand curtailing of Budget session

Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, seen wearing protective mask in the wake of coronavirus as arrives at the Parliament House during the ongoing budget session in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, seen wearing protective mask in the wake of coronavirus as arrives at the Parliament House during the ongoing budget session in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu asks TMC MPs to remove masks

Trinamool Congress (TMC) members who came wearing masks in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday were asked by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu to remove them immediately. This prompted members to demand deferring of the ongoing Parliament session in the backdrop of rising cases of coronavirus.

Minutes after the House convened for the day, after the obituary references were read out, Mr. Naidu directed the TMC members to remove the black masks. He said the rules of the House did not allow masks.

While, the TMC MPs remained mum, Congress member Rajeev Gowda interjected saying that while the government itself is advising everyone to practice social distancing, Parliament continues to function. He said the parliamentarians should set example to the rest of the country. “We meet people from everywhere across the country and we are probably most at risk within Parliament, and the House of Elders with extremely senior people are also at risk. So, I would urge upon the government to set aside other issues and focus on whether the Parliament sittings can be postponed or the session can be adjourned and postponed to a later date,” Mr. Gowda said.

‘Don’t spread panic’

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the fight against COVID-19 was humanitarian and not political. Parliamentarians should not spread panic.

Mr. Naidu once again appealed to the members to remove the masks after the papers were laid down. He told the TMC members, “I have already made an appeal that the members who are wearing masks, may please go and remove it. Otherwise, it is difficult to conduct the House.”

In response, Congress MP P. Chidambaram said the matter should be left to the judgment of individual members whether he felt vulnerable or not. “If you impose a standard and say, nobody should wear a mask, I think that is not fair,” he said.

Mr. Naidu agreed to his submission, saying that if members feel vulnerable, they can make preventive arrangements. “I leave it to the members,” he said.

Seeks suggestions

Mr. Naidu said MPs could make suggestions on further strengthening measures in the Parliament House complex to check spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the TMC has issued instructions to its members, especially the older members who fall in the vulnerable category. Following this, TMC chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Sukendu Sekhar Ray has written to Mr. Naidu seeking leave. In view of the growing number of COVID-19 cases, the government has said that large gatherings should be avoided. “In view of such unprecedented alarming situation which is fast deteriorating, I have decided to remain in self quarantine at home for the remaining part of the ongoing Budget session,” Mr. Ray said in his letter.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 3:50:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/masks-debut-in-rs-mps-demand-curtailing-of-budget-session/article31097988.ece

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