The monsoon session of the Haryana Assembly is set to begin here on Wednesday with the authorities putting strict protocols in place in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the MLAs and officials requiring a coronavirus negative certificate to gain entry into the Assembly complex, seating arrangement has also been changed to ensure social distancing in the 90-member House.
Just before the starting of the session, the pandemic has already cast its shadow with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Speaker Gian Chand Gupta and Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma testing positive for the virus. BJP MLAs Lakshman Napa, Ram Kumar Kashyap and Aseem Goel also tested positive as have six Assembly staffers, Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa, who will be presiding over the House proceedings in the Speaker's absence, told reporters here on Tuesday.
Khattar is currently admitted to Gurgaon's Medanta Hospital, where his condition is stable, an official said. During the past two weeks, Haryana has seen a spike in infection cases, which are close to the 55,000-mark with over 600 fatalities.
Gangwa said the duration of the session will be decided by the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the House, which will meet on Wednesday. The Vidhan Sabha, however, released a two-day tentative schedule. The session will begin at 2 pm on Wednesday with obituary references.
Earlier, the Speaker had made it mandatory for anyone entering the Assembly complex for the monsoon session to show a COVID-19 negative certificate, which should not be older than three days. This was done on Health Minister Anil Vij's suggestion. The seating arrangements in the House have also been changed to ensure social distancing, Gangwa said. Only one MLA can sit on a bench as against two earlier. The Speaker's as well as visitors' galleries have been converted into a sitting place where legislators will be accommodated with social distancing, he said.
In the officer's gallery, as against the capacity of 36, only 18 people will be allowed to sit, officials said. No visitor will be allowed to watch the Assembly proceedings this time, said Gangwa.
A kit containing masks, gloves and sanitisers will also be provided at the seats to the legislators, said Gangwa, with officials adding that every paper to be laid on the table of the House will go through sanitisation. At the entry to the Vidhan Sabha, shoe covers will be provided.
Officials said media persons will not be allowed to enter the Vidhan Sabha complex this time but arrangements have been made at a nearby government building to enable them cover the proceedings. The House was completely sanitised on Saturday, Gangwa said, adding the process will be repeated on Tuesday evening.
Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja told reporters that her party, which is the main opposition in Haryana, welcomes the protocols put in place to tackle the infection. “Such measures are necessary to keep everyone safe amid the pandemic,” she said.
Selja had reached the Vidhan Sabha complex where her party held a meeting of its legislature group to chalk out a strategy for the session. The Congress legislators were allowed entry into the complex after they produced a COVID-19 negative certificate.
The Assembly is meeting for the first time since the Budget session held in February-March this year. The House has to meet at least once in six months to fulfil the constitutional requirement of holding a session within six months of the previous one.