No winter session due to pandemic, Budget session in January

Indian Express, December 15, 2020

Days after Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, sent a letter to Speaker Om Birla, urging him to convene a short winter session of Parliament to discuss issues such as the farmers’ agitation, the government on Monday informed him that floor leaders of various parties, whom it had consulted, were in favour of doing away with the session due to the pandemic situation.

In a letter to Chowdhury, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi stated that the government is willing to have the next session of Parliament at the “earliest”, and that it would be appropriate to have the Budget session in January.

The Budget session had begun on January 31 last year, and on January 28 in 2018.

Chowdhury confirmed receiving the letter but said he never suggested that the winter session should not be held. “Rather,” he told The Indian Express, “I suggested that the session should be held.”

The Congress leader alleged that the government is running away from Parliament to evade questions on issues such as the farmers’ protests.

In the letter to Chowdhury, Joshi wrote: “You are aware that the Monsoon Session was slightly delayed, and was held in September 2020 due to extraordinary situation arising out of Covid-19 pandemic, following all precautionary protocols…. the Session proved to be one of the most productive sessions of Parliament, with 27 Bills passed by both Houses in 10 continuous sittings.”

He wrote that the winter months are “crucial for managing the pandemic because of recent spurt in cases during this period, particularly in Delhi.”

He stated, “At present, we are in the middle of December and a Covid vaccine is expected very soon. In this regard, I have informally contacted floor leaders of various political parties and they have expressed their concerns about the ongoing pandemic and opined of doing away with Winter Session.”

The government, Joshi wrote, is “willing to have the next session of Parliament at the earliest: it would be appropriate to have the Budget Session, 2021 in January, 2021 keeping in mind the unprecedented circumstances created by Covid-19 pandemic.”

When contacted, Chowdhury said: “I have never suggested that the session should not be held. In many states, Assembly sessions are being held. Why should Parliament enjoy the exemption when, in the same country, Assembly sessions are being held? It is simply a fig leaf to hide the failures of this government – the government is hesitant because it does not want to reply to anything in Parliament.”

He maintained that the government is “dithering” on several issues, including farmers’ agitation, and therefore “they don’t want to convene the winter session of Parliament”.

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