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Covid cloud over Winter Session of Parliament, could be merged with Budget Session

No formal announcement yet. If called off, this will be the fourth time in the history of Parliament that the Winter Session will not be held.

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New Delhi: Spiralling Covid-19 cases in Delhi could lead to the Winter Session of Parliament, which generally starts mid-November and goes on till mid-December, being called off, and merged with next year’s Budget Session, ThePrint has learnt.

The Budget Session begins in the last week of January, with the Union Budget presented on 1 February. The government has, however, not formally announced if the Winter Session has been called off.

If it does so, this will be the fourth time in the history of Parliament that the Winter Session will not be held. According to officials in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, the Winter Session was not held in 1975, 1979 and 1984.

“Deliberations are going on in the parliamentary affairs ministry on the feasibility of holding the session in the middle of a raging pandemic. There is a feeling that because Delhi is seeing a spurt in cases, it will be advisable to not hold the session this month or in December and instead club it with the budget session,” a senior official in the Lok Sabha Secretariat, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.

The official added, “The government has already cleared over two dozen bills in the Monsoon Session and there is hardly any pressing agenda necessitating calling the session when Covid cases in Delhi are touching over 7,000 almost every day.”

Also read: Polymer sheets, MPs in masks, no Gandhis and Amit Shah — Monsoon session has a new look

Monsoon Session was cut short

The government had earlier cut short the Monsoon Session of Parliament, ending it eight days ahead of schedule after a spurt in Covid-19 cases among MPs, Union ministers and Parliament staff. The 18-day session was the shortest in 20 years.

The government had taken unprecedented measures during the Monsoon Session to keep MPs, government officials and Parliament staffers safe from Covid-19. Members sat with polycarbonate sheets separating them, donning masks and gloves, and some even with head caps on. Both the Houses also sat on weekends.

Because of social distancing protocols, MPs addressed the House in a seated position. Traditionally, MPs stand when they address the House. Members of the Lok Sabha sat in the Rajya Sabha chamber and gallery, and vice versa, to accommodate all of them after adhering to social distancing norms.

RT-PCR tests were made mandatory for everybody entering the Parliament premises. A mandatory RT-PCR test that each MP had to take before attending the session revealed that at least 30 of them were Covid positive. 

Also read: Monsoon session was short yet productive. But pushing through reforms came at a cost

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