The Parliament reconvenes on September 14 amid a grim COVID situation not only across the country but also within the two Houses where a large number of MPs, including ministers, are caught in the pandemic grip or its fear.
An NDTV report said 200 out of 785 MPs are above 65 years of age, and at least seven Union ministers and two dozen lawmakers are recovering from COVID-19.
The fear of infection may also see many senior MPs skipping the monsoon session. For instance, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (87) will attend the inaugural day of the session but might be uncertain for the remaining part of the session, which goes on till October 1, his office indicated. The doctors have strictly advised the former PM against leaving his home.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already decided that some of her MPs who are old or suffer from ailments will not attend Parliament. Trinamool’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay will not come to Delhi, but will guide the MPs from Kolkata, reports said.
Congress leaders have said former defence minister AK Antony (79) may not attend the House daily, but be there on some days. Similarly, Congress leader and former UPA minister Vayalar Ravi (83) too may not attend the House every day. Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has left for the US for a routine health check. Antony and Ravi are Rajya Sabha MPs.
Reports said as many as 97 out of 240 MPs of the Rajya Sabha are above the age of 65, and 20 above the age of 80 years.
The average age of Lok Sabha MPs is 54 and that of Rajya Sabha MPs, 63. Older people, especially those with co-morbidities, and men are at greater risk from Covid-19. Men account for 85.6% of Lok Sabha MPs and 89% of Rajya Sabha MPs.
Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu are personally overseeing all preparations. On Thursday, Birla was seen in the gallery of the Lok Sabha enquiring as to how MPs will take part in the House proceedings.
Birla has decided that not many physical copies of papers will be available in the chamber and MPs will mark their attendance in an app and not physically sign in a log book.
Seven Union Ministers and two dozen MPs of both Houses have been infected by the coronavirus. One Lok Sabha MP has even died of Covid, while others have lost their relatives and want to avoid travel.
It is learnt that all those entering Parliament will have to undergo a Covid test three days before entering the premises and must get a negative certificate.
It is estimated more than 2,000 entrants, including security personnel, officials, journalists and others will be inside Parliament House for two weeks, and that managing all of them will be a huge task.