The Punjab Vidhan Sabha is all set to hold its first ever session under pandemic conditions on Friday even as 30 MLAs, or one-fourth of total strength of 117, have tested positive for Covid-19 and the majority of opposition is expected to be observing quarantine and staying away from the House.
Vidhan Sabha officials said that strict Covid-19 protocol have been put in place for the truncated one-day monsoon session even as Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh urged the MLAs who had been in contact with their Covid positive colleagues to stay away from the session.
Speaker Rana K P Singh, who had made coronavirus negative report mandatory for ministers, MLAs, officers, employees and media persons attending the 12th session of the 15th Vidhan Sabha, said, “As per the health ministry guidelines, the primary contact (of Covid positive case) is supposed to remain quarantined”.
A majority of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislators won’t be able to attend the session. The two parties had held respective legislative party meetings Wednesday. Manjit Singh Bilaspur (AAP) and Gurpartap Singh Wadala (Akali), who tested positive Thursday were part of their parties’ meetings.
With this, the Akali MLAs are unlikely to be allowed to attend the session as those present in the meetings are supposed to undergo five-day quarantine. SAD leader Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, however, told reporters that he had written to the Speaker to clarify whether they could enter the Assembly or not on Friday.
Except two AAP legislators – Kultar Singh Sandhwan and Baljinder Kaur – who did not attend the party’s meeting, the rest of their legislators are also unlikely to be allowed into the House.
Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, however, said that nine AAP MLAs will take part in the session. He said that there is no reason for the MLAs who have tested negative to stay away from the session.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Amarinder said that protests by the AAP, led by their MLAs, were endangering the lives of people. AAP had been holding dharnas in various parts of the state since August 20 with anything between 25 to 250 people present at each of these gatherings.
“These gatherings have become tinder boxes for sparking further spread of the pandemic,”the CM said.
Amarinder pointed out that of the eight AAP MLAs who had spearheaded these dharnas, two have already tested positive and each of them had come in contact with scores of other people.
Out of 30 MLAs who tested positive, six are from SAD, three from AAP, one rebel AAP legislator and the rest are Congress legislators.
The CM has ordered Truenat and RAT machines to be installed at the Vidhan Sabha premises, as well as Punjab Bhawan and MLAs’ hostel, for testing ahead of the session.
During a virtual covid review meeting with the CM and other officials, Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan appealed to all political parties that their MLAs, who had come in contact with Covid positive colleagues, should reach the Assembly premises early for testing in case they wish to attend.
In the Vidhan Sabha, social distancing will be ensured and only one member will be allowed to sit per bench against two members allowed earlier. Additional benches have been arranged to accommodate all the members. In the 117-member House, there are a total 105 benches.
No visitor will be allowed in the Assembly.
Social distancing norms will also be followed for the officials in the officers’ gallery while a kit comprising masks, gloves and hand sanitizers will be provided to each member of the House.
The media will not be allowed in the Assembly and will report from the Punjab Bhawan, which has been notified by the Speaker as extended precinct for media coverage. Live streaming of the session would be provided at Punjab Bhawan, though no camera or mobile phone will be allowed, an official said.
Legislators can hold press conferences in the open area of the Punjab Bhawan.
Meanwhile, several bills and ordinances are likely to be presented during the one-day session for enactment. These are related to regulation of private clinical establishments, temporary release of some prisoners amid the Covid pandemic, control of drugs dispensation by private de-addiction centres, industrial disputes and child labour.
A ‘Sri Guru Teg Bahadur State University of Law Bill – 2020’ for the establishment of a law university in Tarn Taran to commemorate the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur is also likely to be tabled in the House.
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