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Parliament: Cut House short but don’t use Covid to duck debate, push Bills, says Opp

In the BAC meeting, the government insisted that it wants to clear all the Bills it has listed. The Congress asserted that it wanted detailed discussions on crucial issues including the pandemic, economic slowdown and National Education Policy.

Written by Liz Mathew , Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: September 20, 2020 2:06:29 am
parliament monsoon session, parliament session curtailed, lok sabha session, parliament session covid spread, mps who tested positiveLok Sabha Speaker Om Birla arrives to attend the meeting of Business Advisory Committee (BAC) at Parliament House Annexe, in New Delhi (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist)

DEEPENING concerns over Covid in the premises of Parliament forced political leaders in Lok Sabha to agree on cutting short the monsoon session but there was disagreement over what the unfinished business was and how to address it.

While the Government is insistent on pushing a slew of Bills, the Opposition is pressing for debates on crucial issues. This emerged at a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of Lok Sabha convened by Speaker Om Birla Saturday.

The Monsoon session began September 15 — with several firsts and unprecedented protocols for Covid spread — was scheduled to end on October 1.

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In the BAC meeting, the government insisted that it wants to clear all the Bills it has listed. The Congress asserted that it wanted detailed discussions on crucial issues including the pandemic, economic slowdown and National Education Policy. The Trinamool Congress said it wanted to discuss the stalled GST compensation.

With more than 30 MPs including Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Pateland several Parliament staff testing positive over the last week, there has been a palpable sense of concern and apprehension in Parliament over the spread of Covid.

The Indian Expresson Friday had reported that the apprehensions over Covid could prompt an early winding up of the session.

Parties like the TMC and the DMK argued the session should be cut short in view of the fact that over 30 MPs have tested positive over the last week.

Sources said the Congress, too, left the decision to the Government and Speaker but its leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Government can’t use this as an alibi for passing Bills without any debate.

“Aapke kehne par aaye hain aur aapke kehne par jayenge,” Chowdhury is learnt to have said. He added that the Government can call another session after a month and pass some of the Bills then. “We have not come here to pass the Bills in a hurry. We have to discuss the Bills and put forward our views,” he is learnt to have said.

The TMC hit out at the Government. “First, this Govt calls an 18-day Parliament Session. After six days, have they realised it’s a hare-brained idea? Now they want the Opposition to find them a solution. The megalomaniac Centre created the mess with selfish, sinister motives. Now go fetch,” tweeted TMC Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien.

On Friday, the government wanted the Lok Sabha to allocate time for six more Bills in the coming days. These include three labour-related billsincluding the Code on Industrial Relations, the Social Security Code and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition; the Jammu and Kashmir official Language Bill; The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill 2020 and the Foreign Regulation (Amendment) Bill.

“There was a consensus on the curtailment of the session,” said a regional party leader after the BAC meeting. “Whether it’s Wednesday or Thursday, the Speaker will take a decision,” he added.

Sources said even if Lok Sabha is adjourned, Rajya Sabha would have to continue for at least two more days as it has more pending legislative business.

“The Lok Sabha sits for a longer duration while the Rajya Sabha could sit only for four hours. This has slowed down the legislative business there,” said the source.

Rajya Sabha sits from 9 am to 1 pm and with seating distributed between the chambers of both Houses — and galleries – the Upper House proceedings are concluded to facilitate sanitisation before Lok Sabha sits from 3 pm to 7 pm. And, over the last few days, the Lok Sabha session has continued beyond this time, too.

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