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Parliament norms on social distancing gives government floor advantage


New Delhi: As Parliament begins its monsoon session under the current extraordinary situation and with unprecedented social-distancing drill in place, the government is likely to expedite the passing of as many Bills as possible. Though the Opposition MPs want to take on the government on a number of issues, including opposing the four ordinances, particularly on agricultural issues, and over border row and economic crisis, the social distancing norms and the scattered seating arrangements would clearly hamper the Opposition aggression in this session, thus giving the government an upper hand in pushing with its legislative business.

On the opening day, the Lok Sabha is slated to pass two Bills already passed by the Rajya Sabha –– on establishing commissions for homeopathy and naturopathy disciplines of medicine. This will be after the House will reassemble after adjourning for some time after making obituary references to former President Pranab Mukherjee and some other former MPs.

Though Congress chief whip Kodikunnil Suresh pressed at Sunday’s Business Advisory Committee –– in which the Speaker Om Birla gave an elaborate briefing to the floor leaders about the social distancing and safety measures to be taken during this session and, a senior AIIMS doctor elaborated on the usage of safety kits and other precautions against Covid-19 –– for the adjournment of the Lok Sabha on Monday after passing tributes to Mukherjee, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi pointed out how Parliament didn’t adjourn for the full day when another former President APJ Abdul Kalam died.

Now, the Speaker will decide formally Monday’s format on a likely brief adjournment. Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury mentioned his party’s demand on filling up the deputy speaker’s post.

On Tuesday, the government will get Opposition support in unanimously passing two more Bills in the Lok Sabha –– in giving legislative framework to ordinances, slashing the salaries of the PM, union ministers and MPs due to Covid-19 economic issues and in providing better salaries to health workers engaged in battling the pandemic.

The BAC is slated to meet again on Tuesday to discuss other Bills as well as for scheduling Opposition demands for short-duration debates on the row with China, Covid-19, economic crisis and unemployment issues.

On the eve of the session, Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh reiterated the party’s decision to oppose five Bills to replace the ordinances (three on agricultural matters), another on freezing the MPLAD for two years, provision of tax exemption in one Bill to PM-Cares fund donors and one changing the structural equations of the agricultural cooperative banks.

Speaking to the media after the PAC meet, Speaker Om Birla said, “We have got all the members tested. If necessary, and if they show symptoms, then testing facilities are available for them inside the Parliament premises for 18 days. Covid-19 tests have also been arranged for their family members, so that, in case of any symptoms, we can get the tests done. It is expected that if there is any symptom, then they should not participate in the Parliament proceedings till their report comes.”

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