Budget session: MPs to undergo Covid-19 test; arrangements made for families, staff

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Tuesday said that arrangements have been made for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests for members of Parliament (MPs) near their residences ahead of the Budget Session from January 29. He added RT-PCR tests will be conducted at the Parliament House on January 27-28 and that the arrangement for the Covid-19 testing have also made for families, and staff members of the lawmakers.

Birla said the vaccination drive policy finalised by the Centre, and the states will apply to parliamentarians as well and that the question hour during the Session will be for one hour.

“All MPs [members of Parliament] will be requested to undergo the Covid-19 test before the start of the Parliament session,” said Birla.

Birla said the Zero Hour for the members to raise any issues of regional or national importance will resume during the session.

The Rajya Sabha will sit from 9am to 2pm and Lok Sabha will function in the second half from 4-8pm, he added.

Replying to a question on the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on farm laws, Birla said demands made outside the House are not part of the Parliament agenda so far.

“I will talk to all political leaders and then the issues for debate and bills will be decided at the Business Advisory Committee [meeting] of the two Houses.”

Birla said he has not received any proposal so far for a special discussion on farm issues. “But I will meet all parties on January 28. I am already in touch with different parties.”

Birla said no physical copies of Budget papers will be provided. “Online budget documents will be provided.”

Birla said food served in Parliament canteens for MPs and others will become costlier as a subsidy given for it has been stopped. News agency PTI reported the Lok Sabha Secretariat is expected to save annually over 8 crore with the end to the subsidy.

Birla said Parliament canteens will now be run by India Tourism Development Corporation in place of Northern Railways.

The Winter Session of Parliament was earlier scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic even as Opposition parties opposed the move amid the farmers’ agitation near the Capital.

The farmers’ protests, the state of the economy, the border stand-off with China, and the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were some of the important issues the Opposition was expected to raise during the Winter Session. Personal Data Protection Bill, Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill and National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill were some of the key bills due for discussion and passage.

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Parliament normally holds three sessions in a calendar year–Budget (end of January to early April), Monsoon (July to August), and Winter (November to December). The Budget Session last year was cut short by eight days, and an already shortened Monsoon Session was also reduced by the same duration due to the pandemic.

Several MPs and Parliament officials tested positive during the Monsoon Session (September 14 to September 23).

The government pushed three controversial farm bills in the Monsoon Session, ignoring repeated demands by the Opposition for a review of the proposed laws. The Rajya Sabha passed the bills amid a massive disruption that led to the suspension of eight MPs from the chamber. The Opposition also said that none of the key issues, such as the economy, the plight of migrant workers, inflation was discussed in the House.

As per the rule, there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament.

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