With the Monsoon Session of the Parliament commencing on September 14 in the midst of a raging pandemic, adequate measures have been taken to ensure the safety of all members, staff, and employees. A set of detailed guidelines have been issued by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariat in accordance with the recommendations of ICMR and Health Ministry, which have to be followed.
All MPs need to have a Covid-19 negative certificate in order to be able to enter the Parliament building. This test needs to be done 72 hours before the session commences. Those MPs who have been unable to undertake the test will need to do so on the day they arrive at the Parliament's reception.
If their rapid antigen test comes out negative, they can attend the session, however, if they test positive, they will need to isolate themselves and seek hospitalisation or home isolation as per the advice of the doctors.
In the case where a member goes for RT-PCR test, then one needs to wait for the test results. If an MP's staff or family member tests positive, then the said MP will need to self-quarantine for 14 days as per the health ministry's guidelines.
No person who has shown any symptoms will be allowed to enter the Parliament. During the course of the proceedings, if any member or staff develop symptoms, he or she would be requested to immediately alert the medical authorities at the site.
Here is the list of dos and don'ts:
- The face must be covered at all times and it must be ensured that the mask it is safely disposed of. Members would be encouraged to wear disposable face covers.
- Social distancing of 6 feet to be maintained and face to face interaction must be avoided.
- Maintaining hand hygiene is advised. Sanitization devices have been set up at various places in the Parliament premises.
- MPs would be requested to avoid calling any visitors to Parliament unless absolutely necessary.
- Members would be requested to avoid gathering in the lobby, common and dining areas.
- MPs would be encouraged to avoid going out of the Parliament during the course of a day's proceedings unless necessary to avoid contracting infection externally.
- MPs would be requested to avoid carrying paper bills, reports, etc. to Parliament. Digital copies would be encouraged. In case any physical prints have to be taken, the members would need to procure it themselves. Parliament would not supply printed copies as it used to earlier.
- Entry to Parliament and exit would also be unidirectional whether at gates or for cars.
- Parliament canteen would offer only packed meals, tea and coffee during the course of the session. This, too, would be given in disposable containers.
Sources also told News18 that during the Session, the Central Hall would be out of bounds for both media, as well as former MPs, or members of their family. Only a certain number of MPs would be encouraged to sit in the Central Hall at a given time. The sources added that another test would be done on the MPs, their family and staff, Secretariat staff and media after seven days in order to rule out the chances of infection. Camps would be set up in Parliament to facilitate the same.
This list of guidelines has been drawn up by both Houses whose Secretariat officers after months of deliberations under the guidance of Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to ensure that safety protocol is strictly adhered to while holding a session. The Session is being held amid the coronavirus crisis because of the Constitutional obligation, according to which, a session must be held within six months of the conclusion of the previous one.