News 18, June 08, 2021
The union government is deliberating on holding the monsoon session of Parliament around mid-July even as parliamentary committees will start functioning from June 16, top sources told CNN-News18 on Tuesday.
The development comes after the budget session in March was curtailed as lawmakers wanted to focus on campaigning for the April-May assembly elections in several states. In fact, the winter and budget sessions were clubbed due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis late last year.
One of the Parliamentary Committees to meet first will be the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Chaudhary.
Though the business for the upcoming session is yet to be examined in detail, the government has a number of crucial bills to present while the opposition has been demanding discussions on repealing the controversial farm laws that have sparked months-long protests, the alarming rise in fuel prices, and the alleged misuse of investigating agencies by the ruling regime against rivals. One of the key issues for discussion is expected to be India’s fight against the pandemic, especially the handling of the second wave with the country recording over two lakh cases a day that has dropped under a lakh after a gap of 63 days.
Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi told CNN-News18, “The details are still being worked out but we are hopeful of holding a normal session…We are expecting a regular session to take place.”
The sources said that the session will be a full-fledged one and may be held for a total of four weeks. The other modalities are being worked out, they added.
While the prerogative to call for a session is the government’s, sources also said that in a short period of time the cabinet committee for parliamentary affairs led by union minister Rajnath Singh is likely to approve the dates.
The dates will then be communicated as an intent by the government to both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha custodians for their approval and subsequent announcement.
Keeping the Covid scare in mind a number of precautions are also likely to continue in the upcoming session of Parliament including holding timely testing, keeping visitors out, and limiting staff entry into the premises.
There is also debate on seeking vaccination certificates from those who are entering the Parliament building. Officials are also hopeful that by the time the session starts, most of the people and especially the MPs who fall in the 45 years and above age category would have completed two doses of vaccination. The authorities are also confident that with the various steps taken by the government, the officials of Parliament would also be vaccinated in time.
A vaccination drive is in place in Parliament for the lawmakers, their families, and also parliamentary staff.
While Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK supports the idea of a session, it wants the government to come clean on “Covid mismanagement”. Senior MP Dayanidhi Maran told CNN-News18, “The government must produce a white paper on Covid mismanagement. The PM must answer all our questions. The buck stops with him.”
Maran added that a productive session is one where everyone is accommodated. “We want to get a chance to talk. Opposition parties’ voices have been stifled and the government rushes through with bills,” he said.
The Congress has been in support of holding a session, the deputy floor leader for the party in the Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi, said. “If the Covid cases continue to decline and we see this downward trend, we would look forward to the session,” he told CNN-News18.
Several opposition lawmakers had earlier approached both the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman to allow virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees. However, the requests were turned down by both custodians as the rules do not permit such online meetings, and any amendments to the rules would have to be passed by Parliament. The MPs are likely to raise this issue during the session.
“The Prime Minister himself holds meetings digitally on the most confidential aspects of this country. This is the time for him to show the might of Digital India and allow virtual committee meetings to take place,” Gogoi said.
In the budget session, apart from the union budget and the demand for grants, the government was able to clear ten ordinances in both Houses of Parliament.
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