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    Teething problems as monsoon session of Parliament starts amid COVID-19

    Synopsis

    National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who had not attended the House proceedings since the first week of August 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated, was conspicuous by his presence. Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, both members of Lok Sabha, are in the US for her treatment.

    The Upper House also has a new panel of chairpersons who would preside in the absence of the Vice President and the Deputy Chairperson.
    New Delhi: The start of Parliament’s monsoon session, being held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, saw several teething problems and confusions as MPs were seen breaching social distancing norms inside the House and many new protocols were flouted.

    Before the Lok Sabha proceedings began at 9 am, members were seen taking photos in the two chambers were new seating arrangements were put in place. However, when the House was adjourned for an hour after paying respects to former President of India Pranab Mukherjee and 13 former MPs, many members in the Lok Sabha chamber broke all social distancing norms. However, members kept a distance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who left the House soon after the adjournment.

    National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who had not attended the House proceedings since the first week of August 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated, was conspicuous by his presence. Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, both members of Lok Sabha, are in the US for her treatment.

    When the House met again at 10:15 am, Speaker Om Birla pointed out that members seated in the last row of the Lok Sabha chamber were not following social distancing norms. Actor-turned MP Ravi Kishan was among those who had to shift to another seat. RPI(A) leader and union minister Ramdas Athawale sat next to Sadanand Gowda in the front row breaching social distancing norms.

    Though opposition members could not walk into the Well of the House to protest, they tried to intervene and interrupt the ministers when they spoke.

    In his welcome remarks, the Speaker said many MPs who had for long dreamt of becoming Rajya Sabha members can now get an opportunity to sit in the Upper House chamber.

    The resolution on not having Question Hour and Private Members Bill saw members in both Houses raising objections. In the Lok Sabha, Asadudin Owaisi (AIMIM) said this is agains the theory of separation of powers and demanded a division on the issue but the Speaker turned down the request. Leader of the Congress in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Question Hour is “golden hour” and not holding it akin to strangulating democracy. Manish Tewari (Cong) said a decision on this matter can only be taken “unanimously”.

    Saugata Roy, Kalyan Banerjee, and Mahua Moitra (all TMC) also objected to this decision.

    After the resolution was passed, Birla took up Zero Hour for 30 minutes in which members raised concerns about state of the economy, the NEET exam controversy and rampant sale of drugs in the film industry.

    Lok Sabha passed two Bills- The National Commission for Homeopathy Bill, 2020 and The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill- on Monday.

    “It is a historical day in terms of productivity as well,” Birla said.

    In the Rajya Sabha chamber, the polycarbonate sheets between two seats were not put in place unlike the Lower House chamber. The House proceedings began with oath taking by newly elected members. Shibu Soren (JMM), who had recently recovered from Covid, had to be helped to the Well of the House to take oath. His oath was barely audible.

    A total of 15 MPs took oath, including Dinesh Trivedi, Arpita Ghosh, Zafar Islam, Jaiprakash Nishad, T Siva, K Keshav Rao, Fauzia Khan and Ajit Kumar Bhuyan.

    The Upper House also has a new panel of chairpersons who would preside in the absence of the Vice President and the Deputy Chairperson.

    Many members who are senior citizens kept away from Parliament. This includes former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Deve Gowda. Naidu warned the members not to walk up to the Parliament staff during session breaks and asked them to maintain social distancing norms.

    In both sessions, several MPs and even ministers sat in the visitors’ gallery and the other chamber.

    Though the Vice President and the Lok Sabha Speaker had held several rounds of discussions with their respective secretariat on preparations for the session, the staff was at a loss on issues of passes, seating and other administrative issues. The Covid status of many people entering the complex was not checked though RT-PCR and antigen tests are mandatory for everybody entering the Parliament premises.

    Some of the rules were revised in the second half when the Rajya Sabha proceedings began.
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