Parliament's Monsoon Session May End by Middle of Next Week as Parties Arrive at Consensus

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The government and opposition parties have arrived at a consensus to curtail the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament by late next week, sources present at a meeting of the Business Advisory Council (BAC) told CNN-News18 on Saturday. The urgent BAC meeting was called by the Lok Sabha Speaker to decide on whether the session can be curtailed given the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Parliament.

The sources said that those present in the meeting said the session could be adjourned sine die by September 24.

While the government sought cooperation of the opposition on business that has been pending, opposition parties asked for a discussion on key issues such as management of the coronavirus pandemic, GST dues owed to states, environment policy, and the National Education Policy (NEP).

The opposition has reportedly been assured by Speaker OP Birla that a short duration discussion on GST will take place on one of the days next week during the Zero Hour. All other calling attention issues would be discussed on the last working day of the session.

The Lok Sabha has so far passed three Bills to replace agriculture sector-related ordinances. Also, both Houses have cleared a bill to replace an ordinance for cutting by 30% the salaries of MPs to ramp up funds in the fight against the pandemic.

Those parties present in the meeting -- Shiv Sena, Congress, DMK, Trinamool Congress, YSR Congress and TDP -- requested the Speaker to consider curtailing the session.

Despite the strictest of protocols in place, two Union ministers -- Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Singh Patel -- tested positive while they were attending Parliament. Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe also tested positive the day after he attended Parliament where he had even participated in a discussion.

More than 250 Secretariat employees and several media personnel who went to cover the session also tested positive. The government has even mandated daily tests for journalists entering the Parliament to cover the session from Saturday.

A minister aware of the developments told CNN-News18, "It was a very difficult decision to hold a session in the midst of a pandemic, but we are bound by a constitutional duty. It is important for us to pass the ordinances, otherwise those will lapse. We will take a call after Sunday to see what can be done."

India, which recorded 93,337 new infections in the last 24 hours, has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August. India is the second-most badly affected country after the United States, with the total recorded cases at 5.3 million. The virus killed 1,247 people in last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 85,619, government data showed on Saturday.