The monsoon session of Parliament , delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will get underway on Monday with strict safety protocols in place.
The 18-day session is expected to be stormy, with the Opposition eager to corner the government on its handling of the India-China border issue, the pandemic and the naming of senior Left leaders as co-conspirators in the Delhi riots by the Delhi police.
The session, with four-hour sittings for each House in shifts, including on weekends, will not only see the government lining up 11 ordinances, which were cleared during the lockdown, but also tabling upto 45 Bills in both Houses for approval.
While Question Hour has been removed from the business of the day, questions that require written answers will be tabled, and a 30-minute Zero Hour for MPs to raise issues of importance has been added.
Some ambiguity prevailed over whether the government would allow a full fledged discussion over the India-China face-off.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the “government was ready to discuss all issues” and “appealed to all parties for cooperation”.
“Considering the sensitivities of the Indo-China matter, a meeting of leaders from both Houses will be held on Tuesday,” he added.
A second Business Advisory Committee meeting for the Lok Sabha will also be held on Tuesday to decide the time allocation for various debates.
Opposition lawmakers, already at loggerheads with the government over scrapping of Question Hour, said they would be pushing for discussions on the economy, the plight of migrant workers, and unemployment.
Among the ordinances coming up before both Houses would be what the government had termed its trio of Bills for agricultural reform — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the amendments to the Essential Commodities Act.
Also read: Govt lists 23 new bills for Monsoon session
The election of a deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha will also take place on September 14, with the NDA renominating the JD(U)’s Harivansh and the Opposition putting up Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Manoj Jha.
While stormy weather in Parliament will be one of the regular features of the session, there have been many COVID-19-induced changes made to the conduct of business in both Houses.
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will sit alternately in four-hour shifts (9 a.m.- 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. -7p.m.), apart from a host of measures to ensure that physical distancing will be maintained. Each seat in Lok Sabha has been separated by polycarbonate sheets as also individual rows. Only 257 members will be allowed inside Lok Sabha chambers, with another 172 allowed in other galleries. A total of 111 Lok Sabha MPs will be seated in Rajya Sabha and participate in via electronic communication.
For the first time ever, LED screens in both Houses of Parliament will display real time transmission from the other House.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu chaired a meeting of Business Advisory Committee on Sunday evening.
The meeting was attended by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jairam Ramesh, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O' Brien, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, BJD leader Sasmit Patra, JD(U) leader RCP Singh among others. From BJP Bhupender Yadav and Shiv Pratap Shukla attended the meeting.
According to sources, the Chairman agreed that on having a debate on contentious issues of state of Indian economy post COVID and the standoff with the Chinese army on the LAC. A detailed debate on the pandemic and health infrastructure will also be taken up.
Eleven ordinances are on agenda. The three agricultural ordinances, which the Congress and even the NDA ally Akali Dal are opposed to has been allotted seven hours.