Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the Parliament kickstarts the 18-day monsoon session from Monday with many firsts, including sitting of the two Houses in shifts without any off day, entry only to those having a negative Covid-19 report and compulsory wearing of masks.
In the run-up to the Parliament session, over 4,000 people, including the MPs and staff, have been tested for Covid-19, many parliamentary operations have been digitalised and the entire premises sanitised, apart from making doors touch-free.
The first-of-its-kind session, scheduled from September 14 to October 1, will see both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sitting in two different shifts. Special seating arrangements have been made in both the Houses in adherence to the social distancing protocol.
Barring on the first day, Rajya Sabha will convene in morning shift, from 9 am till 1 pm, and Lok Sabha in evening shift, from 3 pm to 7 pm. The chambers of both houses, along with their respective galleries, will be used for seating the members in each shift.
During the gap between the two shifts, the entire complex will be sanitised. Entry on to the premises will be allowed only on production of a Covid-19 negative report, the test of which should be conducted not more than 72 hours before the start of the session.
The entire Parliament complex will be sanitised frequently and moreover, arrangements have been made to sanitise various parliamentary papers as well as footwear and cars of MPs, officials said.
Frisking of those entering the premises will also be done through touch-less security scanning, while thermal scanning will also be totally touch-free.
For making the entire Parliament complex a safe zone, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu had held a series of extensive discussions with officials of the home ministry, health ministry, ICMR and DRDO.
As per the standard operating procedures (SOP) finalised for holding the session, the MPs and staff of Secretariats of both houses and the media personnel covering the proceedings will be asked to undergo Covid-19 test. Officials said arrangements were made for tests of close to 4,000 people, including the MPs, staff members and journalists.
Except for the MPs and ministers, nobody will be allowed inside the main building, while necessary seating arrangements will be made for their personal staff in the complex.
The MPs will also be allowed to address the Chair while seated and wearing their masks so that the risk of infection might be minimised. It has also been decided that air of air conditioners will be exchanged six times every day to avoid any possible infection.
The DRDO will also provide multi-utility Covid-19 kits to all the MPs. Each kit will contain 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitisers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a touch-free hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.
At present, the two houses together have more than 780 members. The health ministry also suggested that the movement of MPs in chambers of both the Houses can be made unidirectional to avoid face-to-face interactions.
The ministry will make available short video clips to all MPs on awareness about Covid-19 infection and the benefits of wearing masks, etc.
Touchless sanitisers have been placed at 40 different areas within the Parliament House complex and emergency medical teams, ambulances will also be stationed.
Ultraviolet boxes have also been readied to sanitise various parliamentary papers handled by the presiding officers and members. For the sanitisation of footwear and cars used by the members and those provided by the Secretariat, mats of required dimensions soaked in hypochloride gel were placed in troughs. Marshals will also wear masks and face shields.
This session is going to be a costly affair with utmost priority being given to check the spread of the Covid-19 as many of the MPs are aged above 50 years and are prone to contract the virus very easily, with most of them likely to have comorbidities.