National

Opinion | Why parliament must disperse immediately

A security official tests Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu with a thermal screening device as he arrives at Parliament House on March 18, 2020.

A security official tests Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu with a thermal screening device as he arrives at Parliament House on March 18, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The comparison between parliament being in session and doctors, security personnel and others being at work a rather silly, frivolous equivalence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the BJP parliamentary party on March 17 that the ongoing session of parliament will continue until April 3 as scheduled. According to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, the PM told MPs, “If media, doctors, pilots, state-owned transportation, airport, policemen, railway stations can work in this (the fight against coronavirus) direction, MPs have to do their job too. They have to keep the House running and simultaneously take care of their people.”

Also read | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

This is grandstanding, but does not help the fight against the coronavirus. In fact, this attitude could damage the wide-spectrum earnest efforts of his own government in containing the risk of a nationwide outbreak. The comparison between parliament being in session and doctors, security personnel and others being at work a rather silly, frivolous equivalence. The spread of the virus at the moment is uneven across the country, depending on the varied global linkages of particular regions. Parliament members can be super-spreaders of the infection who could carry the virus from one corner to the entire country. They must disperse soon, not because they are scared for their own safety, or they want to skip work — but to save the country.

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

To understand the gravity of the situation, look at what happened to Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan. Kerala, where he comes from reported the first COVID-19 case in India. Being a highly-globalised State, Kerala has been reporting a high prevalence. Mr. Muraleedharan was exposed to the virus during his public interactions in Kerala, and only because he knew that he was exposed, could isolate himself. It is unclear whether he visited parliament house before he got to know that. It is highly unlikely that other MPs from highly affected States are entirely entirely unexposed to the contagion.

Every MP meets dozens of people every day, and more active Lok Sabha members meet hundreds. When 800 of them congregate under one roof, in a constricted space, and sit on crammed benches, and goes to their constituencies and States over the weekend and return to the parliament building to repeat this cycle all over again, they are not showing solidarity with doctors or doing their bit to fight corona. They are making the longest possible contact chains any individual can make in a working week and complicating the job of doctors, and other emergency workers. Far from inspiring doctors, a parliament in session is making the largest contact network that spreads into the noon and corner of the country. Doctors, army and security personnel, airport security, milkmen and newspaper vendor — all are doing their jobs in the face of risk to themselves. But they are not endangering anyone. If parliament continues its session on the pretext of doing its job, it is contributing nothing to the fight against the virus. On the contrary, it could endanger the whole the country. They must disperse forthwith.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 1:47:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/opinion-why-parliament-must-disperse-immediately/article31100684.ece

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