by BLOOMBERG / pic by BLOOMBERG
NEW DELHI • Indian lawmakers returned to the nation’s Parliament for the first time since the start of the pandemic with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s (picture) government bracing for a tumultuous session as the country sets new global records in coronavirus infections, and with a tense border standoff with China dominating the headlines.
The worst economic slowdown amid major economies is also expected to drive debate, although the question hour — in which lawmakers seek direct replies from ministers — has been suspended in a move that’s only happened in times of war or national emergency, prompting criticism from the Opposition.
Countries around the world have been grappling with how to conduct legislative business during the pandemic. In India, this parliamentary session will be marked by several firsts. The Covid-19 epidemic has forced the overhaul of logistics and infrastructure to maintain social distancing among members.
Members are required to get tested for the virus no more than 72 hours before the start of the parliamentary session, according to a bulletin from the Upper House or Rajya Sabha. Some senior lawmakers have informed the secretariat of both houses they will skip the session to avoid exposing themselves to possible infection. The average age of members of 545-seat Lower House or Lok Sabha is 54 and that of the 250-member Upper House is 63 years — putting many in the high-risk group for serious complications from Covid-19.
Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation in the air conditioning system will be used, while polycarbonate sheets will separate galleries from chambers, additional display screens and special cables connecting the two houses have been installed. — Bloomberg