The issues of ongoing LAC standoff, handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic slowdown are likely to dominate the Monsoon session of Parliament which begins on Monday, with the opposition demanding a discussion on them, while the government has listed nearly two dozen new legislations for passage during the Covid-curtailed proceedings.
The 18-day session is being held amid unprecedented precautionary measures against Covid-19 due to a continuing spike in cases. On the eve of the session, the Union Health Ministry reported 94,372 fresh cases in 24 hours.
The government has listed 23 new legislations for consideration and passage including 11 bills replacing ordinances. There also 20 other bills pending in either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
Several of the opposition parties are likely to oppose four of the bills replacing ordinances relating to the farm sector and the banking regulation amendments.
The opposition is seeking to corner the government on its handling of the standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the Covid-19 situation, economic downturn and unemployment, and is pressing for discussions on these issues.
The Congress and other opposition parties raised these demands in the first business advisory committee (BAC) meeting for Lok Sabha chaired by Speaker Om Birla today, but the time for these discussions is yet to be allocated.
The BAC for Lok Sabha will be held again on September 15 afternoon to further discuss the issues to chalk out the business schedule for the first week.
The same demands were raised by the Congress in the BAC for Rajya Sabha too.
The session will commence tomorrow with both houses paying obituary references to former President Pranab Mukherjee and other sitting and former members who have died during the interregnum period.
Both houses will be adjourned for an hour after the obituary references.
Rajya Sabha will then hold the election to the post of Deputy Chairman, while Lok Sabha will take up ‘The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020’ and ‘The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, to replace the ordinances issued earlier.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that the government is ready to discuss all issues decided by the BAC and has appealed to all parties for their cooperation.
He said a meeting of leaders of various parties would be held on Tuesday on whether a discussion on the India-China border issue will be held.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Monsoon session is being held amid fear and unprecedented times due to Covid.
He said, “India and China are in a conflict situation in Ladakh and there is tension, GDP is tumbling and inflation is rising”.
“We want to discuss many issues in Parliament that the country and its citizens would want to hear about,” he said.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Congress has demanded that there should be a discussion on the situation at the border and Chinese aggression, besides on Covid-19 pandemic, the economy and joblessness, but the government is yet to give any assurance.
“We have urged the government that our voice should be heard in Parliament,” Chowdhury told reporters.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the Congress and other opposition parties will oppose four of the 11 legislations the government proposes to bring in the session to replace the ordinances issued earlier and expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reply to their concerns.
Ramesh said the Congress is in touch with other like-minded parties and has decided to strongly oppose the three agriculture-related legislations and the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act in both houses of Parliament.
“We hope the Opposition would get an opportunity to speak and serious national issues would be discussed. We expect the prime minister to be present in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and give a reply to the questions raised by us,” he said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will miss a large part of the session as she left for the US on Saturday for a routine medical check-up and will return after a fortnight.
She is accompanied by her son and party leader Rahul Gandhi, who is likely to return within a week to lead the Congress’ offensive in Lok Sabha.
In a statement, the CPI(M) said it is opposed to 11 ordinances promulgated by the government during the period of lockdown.
“Some of these, particularly concerning Indian agriculture, are extremely dangerous and damaging to our farmers, Indian agriculture and India’s economic sovereignty. The CPI(M) has moved a notice for statutory resolutions opposing these ordinances and demanding their withdrawal in both Houses of Parliament, it said.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has also demanded that there should be a discussion on the border conflict with China, Covid, GST dues and unemployment.
All MPs have been asked to undergo a Covid test and only those with a negative report will be allowed to sit in the session. The security and secretarial staff in Parliament have also been asked to take coronavirus tests before their entry.
While on the first day of the session on Monday, Lok Sabha will sit in the morning from 9 AM to 1 PM, Rajya Sabha will sit in the evening starting at 3 PM on Monday.
On the rest of the days, Rajya Sabha will sit for four hours in the morning and Lok Sabha in the evening.
The chambers of both houses and the galleries will be used for each of the session of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and big screens have been put up to enable members to see the proceedings all over the Parliament.
The DRDO will also provide multi-utility Covid-19 kits to all MPs.
Each kit will contain 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitisers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a touch-free hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.
The two houses together have more than 780 members at present. The Health Ministry has also suggested that the movement of Members of Parliament in chambers of both the houses can be made unidirectional to avoid face-to-face interactions.
The Ministry will make available short video clips to all MPs on awareness about Covid-19 infections and the benefits of wearing masks, etc.
Touchless sanitisers will be kept at 40 different places within the Parliament House complex, and emergency medical teams and ambulances will also be stationed.
On Tuesday, two bills for curtailment of salaries of the prime minister and ministers, and MPs respectively will be passed without discussion as the opposition has no objection to them, sources said.
They also said that there will be no Question Hour during the session, but there will be Zero Hour for 30 minutes.