Amidst unprecedented safety measures in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the much-awaited monsoon session of the Parliament began today with the Rajya Sabha Chairman, M Venkaiah Naidu urging the members to make optimal use of the time by deliberating meaningfully and legislating through consensus.
For the first time in the history of Indian Parliament, both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha halls are being used for the sitting of one house at a time to enable members to fully adhere to social distancing norms. The Rajya Sabha now includes not only its own Chamber and Galleries but also the Chamber of the Lok Sabha.
In his opening remarks, Naidu pointed to the substantial business agenda before the House and appealed to all the members to enable the smooth conduct of the proceedings. He sought to remind them that people have lot of expectations from them in respect of providing valuable guidance on management of the pandemic, revival of the economy and return of normal social life.
Referring to the schedule of only 18 sittings during the brief Session, Naidu stressed that primary focus would be to ensure meaningful discussions on important legislations and the issues concerning the nation, including COVID-19 pandemic.
Expressing his happiness to meet with the Members after a gap of 175 days, he observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest disaster to strike humankind since the Spanish Flu about 100 years ago. He said that in spite of India being the second most populous country, the damage due to the pandemic has been contained to the minimum– both in terms of scale of infections and case fatality ratio.
Stating that COVID-19 pandemic has defined a new normal and severely affected the nation and economy, he lauded the remarkable services being rendered by the frontline warriors, including Doctors, Nurses, Police, Paramilitary forces, sanitary workers, media personnel and essential service providers. He also complimented the farmers for having achieved record production despite the lockdown restrictions. He also expressed the hope that the efforts of scientists for a vaccine would come to fruition in the near future.
Stating that the Department Related Standing Committees have started functioning after the ease of travel restrictions, Naidu said they examined various aspects of the pandemic and its impact during the inter-session period. Seven such Committees of Rajya Sabha have held 26 meetings since July this year and spent a total time of 56 hours and 40 minutes deliberating on various issues of which over 50 hours was spent discussing various aspects of the pandemic, its impact and management
Naidu, who completed three years in office as Chairman of the august House last month, said that he had directed the Secretariat to undertake detailed research on various aspects of the functioning of this House since its inception.
With the data available since 1978, he said the productivity of the House has been steadily declining over the last 25 years. However, there has been silver lining. The overall productivity of the last three sessions of the House has been 94.60%, the best for three consecutive sessions in the last five years. “I sincerely hope that this ‘new normal’ would stay”, the Chairman added.
The Chairman has observed that the attendance of 8 Department Related Standing Committees of Rajya Sabha has crossed for the first time 50%– clocking 50.73% during 2019-20 (September 2019-March, 2020). It was 44.87% during 2017-18.
Observing that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, he expressed optimism that these testing times would be overcome with forbearance, discipline and determination.
The Rajya Sabha began its day one at 3.00 p.m. with 15 newly/re-elected Members taking oath/affirmation.
A few Members sought leave of absence for the entire Monsoon Session citing MHA’s guidelines of 29th August, 2020 for Phased Re-Opening (Unlock 4). All those Members were granted leave of absence with the approval of the House.
On the occasion of Hindi Divas, Chairman said that all Indian languages are equally important. He said that our efforts should be to learn and promote all Indian languages along with Hindi.
The House elected its Deputy Chairman. Shri Harivansh has been elected as the 14th Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Chairman conveyed his congratulation and best wishes to the newly elected Deputy Chairman.