The ongoing monsoon session of Lok Sabha will be curtailed by several days, the government decided today after consulting with the opposition at the Business Advisory Committee meeting this evening. The Centre is concerned for the safety of MPs after three of them – who had attended the session – tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, days after their mandatory test reports turned out negative.
The government had earlier held a discussion with the opposition as it had been trying to build a consensus. Many opposition parties were also in favour of winding up the session.
The session in Lok Sabha is likely to wrap up by Wednesday next week. Rajya Sabha, the upper House of parliament, is expected to follow suit.
Seventeen members of the Lok Sabha and eight from the Rajya Sabha had tested positive for the coronavirus in the mandatory tests carried out before the monsoon session of parliament started. Among the infected Lok Sabha MPs, the BJP had the maximum number — 12. The YSR Congress had two MPs, the Shiv Sena, DMK and RLP had one each.
Earlier this week, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Patel – who had tested negative before the session – were found positive for the coronavirus.
On Friday, BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Vinay Sahasrabuddhe tested positive for the virus. He had addressed the House earlier.
“Last Friday, I had got examined and was tested negative hence attended parliament. But last night, I had a headache and mild fever, got examined and have tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr Sahasrabuddhe had tweeted.
The authorities in parliament have taken strict measures to prevent transmission of the coronavirus among the MPs but the government didn’t want to take any chances, sources say.
Before ending the session, the government wants to clear 11 ordinances in parliament. So far, the Lok Sabha has passed only three bills linked to the agriculture sector. Both the Houses have cleared an ordinance to cut by 30 per cent the salaries of the members of parliament to save funds for the country’s fight against the pandemic.
Both the Houses have been convening in two separate shifts so that there is enough room to accommodate MPs while maintaining social distancing. As per the revised guidelines, reporters and parliamentary staff entering the premises now have to undergo the rapid antigen test on a daily basis.
MPs are also taking the RT-PCR test regularly on a voluntary basis. It is mandatory for their staff to take the test every 72 hours.