PARLIAMENT: Budget session from January 29; to continue till April 8; Budget on February 1


NEWS PARLIAMENT BUDGET

KS Shankar / IHN-NN 

NEW DELHI: The Budget session of Parliament will begin on January 29 with all Covid-related protocols including the shift system in place. The session, which will have a recess, will conclude on April 8. The last session was held briefly in September, the Monsoon Session, which was cut short by seven days after several MPs tested positive for Covid-19. 

As per the schedule, President Ram Nath Kovind  will deliver his inaugural address to a joint sitting of both Houses at 11am. The two Houses will meet separately for tabling of the President’s Address. The Economic Survey will also be tabled in this 30-minute sitting. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget at 11am on February 1. 

The budget session is unlikely to be a smooth affair for the government, as the Opposition is gearing up to bring up a number of issues, the farmers’ protest being the most prominent. The government is expected to face an aggressive opposition on issues like the economic slowdown and handling of Covid 19 pandemic. 

Except for the September session, the Parliament did not meet since April last following the pandemic spread. The Winter Session normally held from November was abandoned due to the Covid scenario. 

The budget session will go into recess from February 15 till March 8. During this period, the various department-related standing committees will discuss the Demands for Grants for various ministries and prepare reports. The session will conclude on April 8. 

Question Hour, suspended during the Monsoon session from September 14, to September 23 last, will resume during the Budget session. During this period, Parliament passed 2 bills and set a record in productivity. 

Rajya Sabha met for four hours in the morning while Lok Sabha sat for the second half, with both chambers and visitors’ galleries being used for members so they could observe physical distancing. 

The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will operate in shifts with the Upper House meeting in the forenoon and the Lower House in the evening between 4pm and 9pm, as per Covid protocol. The Lok Sabha will sit for five hours during the Budget session. The session is being held at a time when the government is grappling with the farmers’ agitation and the vociferous demand from the Opposition for repeal of the three farm laws. 

Revival of the economy will be the primary focus of the NDA government during the budget session. The government would face tough questions from Opposition on crucial issues such as reverse migration and the job scenario. The government would also be cornered on the three controversial farm laws and the protests against them. 

Senior Opposition leaders are also keen to have a detailed debate on the issue of employment generation and the problems of reverse migration, which saw an estimated 7 million daily wagers going to their homes largely in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. The Congress is likely to raise the border stand-off with China and seek an update on the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

The Opposition is not only likely to question the government on its handling of the pandemic, but also discuss measures for the mass covid-19 vaccination drive that started on January 16 and seek more financial assistance for states to deal with the fallout of covid-19. 

With Assembly elections due in April-May in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, the Parliament proceedings are likely to be surcharged. The government is looking forward to get the Data Protection Bill and other important legislation passed. 

The debate on the President’s Address and the budget are also expected to be charged as these will be held against the backdrop of the developments since the outbreak of Covid in March 2020  In order to ensure smooth running of Budget Sessions, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said that in the first half of the session, the Parliament will meet 12 times, while 21 sittings are scheduled in the second half. 

NINE PROTOCOLS: “Everyone inside the Parliament complex, including Members of Parliament, their families and staff, Secretariat staff and members of the media would need to undergo RT-PCR tests.” The Speaker said. 

Will MPs be given priority for getting Coronavirus vaccine? The Speaker said as per the vaccination policy finalised by the Centre and states will apply to Parliamentarians as well. “We will have to wait for our turn,” he said. Even PM Modi, during his Covid-19 review meeting with CMs of various states, said that public representatives including MPs and MLAs are not on the priority list. 

The Parliament staff will undertake sanitisation of cars and other vehicles entering Parliament including various files. These are on the lines of the protocols adopted during the September 2020 session. The RT-PCR tests for MPs will be conducted on January 27-28 in Parliament House as well as North Avenue, South Avenue, BD Marg and other places in Lutyens Delhi. Emergency wards for urgent Covid care with dedicated medical teams shall also be deployed at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital for MPs. Other measures include regular fumigation and sanitization. 

According to Lok Sabha secretariat, private members’ business which usually takes place on Friday afternoons will also happen. Members will be allowed to introduce their own bills which will be debated. 

ALL-PARTY MEET ON JAN 30: Prime Minister Modi will chair an all-party meeting on January 30 during which the government will put forth its legislative agenda for the Budget session. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the meeting will be held in virtual mode, and invitation has been sent to floor leaders of all parties. All-party meeting is a customary procedure before the beginning of every session to ensure its smooth functioning. This time, it would be held a day after the session starts on January 29.—IHN=NN 

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