March 7, 2021 8:51:01 am
Several Congress legislators have been seen wilfully flouting social distancing norms that have been put in place for the ongoing Budget Session of the Assembly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These Congress MLAs, and even a minister, are seen sitting three to a desk, especially when the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh is speaking, and some occupy the seats closest to him.
Ever since the first session was held in 2020 after the pandemic struck, the Vidhan Sabha staff had earmarked one seat per MLA on the treasury benches as well as those for the opposition parties. While the opposition MLAs have been seen adhering to the seating arrangement, with the odd aberration as seen in the ongoing session, the Congress MLAs have been the most flagrant violators of the norms.
The most common violators of the social distancing norms in the House are Zira MLA Kulbir Singh Zira, Gurdaspur MLA Barindermeet Singh Pahra and Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. These three are invariably found to be sitting together on Randhawa’s seat in the treasury benches even though Zira and Pahra are supposed to sit on their allocated seats far away.
Khanna MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Sultanpur Lodhi MLA Navtej Singh Cheema and Patti MLA Harminder Singh Gill have also been seen violating rules.
During Friday’s House proceedings, these three occupied the seat right behind the Chief Minister even though none of them are supposed to sit there.
Several other Congress MLAs are also seen sharing their benches against the social distancing norms and these include Amritsar (South MLA) Inderbir singh Bolaria and Amritsar (East) MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu. Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh is most commonly seen sitting along with Navjot Singh Sidhu after moving from his seat.
On the opposition side, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Nazar Singh Manshahia were sharing one bench and they were at one point of time joined by a third AAP rebel MLA.
The flouting of social distancing norms has taken place despite the Speaker, Rana K P Singh, making it very clear right at the beginning of the session that all precautions related to Covid must be taken. He had added that the Coronavirus threat is not yet over and that the session is being held under the shadow of the pandemic.
Several MLAs and ministers have already contracted Coronavirus and have recovered from it. Most MLAs, from across party lines, wear masks in the House, but there are also many who do not wear any mask.
During one adjournment in the House Friday, as many as 17 MLAs and ministers were crowded around Capt Amarinder Singh’s seat in close proximity. Many were not even wearing masks. The Speaker has time and again stressed that the MLAs must not crowd around the CM and should maintain a safe distance.
It is pertinent to mention here that due to Covid restrictions no visitors are allowed inside Vidhan Sabha complex and no one is allowed to sit in the visitor’s gallery. There have also been restrictions on journalists covering the Vidhan Sabha proceedings and the majority of them are only allowed to cover the session through audio-video inputs given at Punjab Bhawan. Only those journalists who are members of the Press Gallery Committee are allowed to enter the Vidhan Sabha complex and cover proceedings after observing social distancing.
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