An extensive disinfection drive will be undertaken in the parliament complex in the next three days amid a surge in Covid cases across the country and around 400 Parliament staff members testing positive for the infection, sources said on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla asked officials to chalk out measures to hold a safe Budget Session.
The presiding officers of the two Houses had directed the secretaries general of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha to examine in detail the prevailing scenario of the Covid pandemic and suggest measures for the safe conduct of the Budget session, sources said.
Though the dates have not yet been announced, the Budget Session usually begins at the end of January.
After the directive, an extensive disinfection drive will be undertaken in the parliament complex in the next "two-three" days.
According to sources, Naidu had called up Birla and the two took stock of the situation and directed both secretaries general accordingly. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh wondered why parliamentary panels were not being allowed to meet virtually amid riding coronavirus cases.
"I requested Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the Winter Session to allow online meetings of Standing Committees. And yet again this was disallowed. Now, important committee meetings are being put off. I simply cannot understand why online meetings cannot be held," he wrote on Twitter.
The Monsoon Session of 2020 was the first full session held under Covid protocol with the Rajya Sabha meeting in the first half of the day and Lok Sabha during the second half.
The same protocol was followed for the first part of the Budget Session in 2021.
For the second part of the Budget session, and the Monsoon and Winter sessions last year, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha reverted to normal timings with members sitting in the chambers and galleries of respective Houses.
According to sources, 65 employees of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 200 of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and 133 of allied services tested positive for COVID-19 between January 4 and 8 during regular tests. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats have asked the employees to work at 50 per cent capacity to avoid crowding at the workspace. Pregnant women and people with disabilities have been asked against attending office.
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