The Budget session of Parliament is likely to begin on January 29 and is expected to be held in two phases; the first phase till February 15 and the second phase for a month beginning March 8, people aware of the details said.
The tentative dates were decided after a meeting of the cabinet committee for parliamentary affairs on Tuesday, but a final decision will be taken after consultation with opposition parties by the end of the week, said a person aware of the details.
The Budget session that comes amid the ongoing farmers’ agitation over the farm bills that were passed by Parliament in September and the controversy over the clearance given to indigenous Covid-19 vaccines, will be held keeping in view the protocols laid for the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of parliamentarians, the secretariat staff and mediapersons. On account of the pandemic, the Winter Session of Parliament could not be held.
“Since the Budget has to be passed on February 1; the session has to be scheduled accordingly. All precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of the attending members,” said a BJP functionary not wishing to be quoted.
The government is gearing up to face an aggressive opposition that has been critical of the farm bills that were passed amid a din during the Monsoon Session held in September. While the Opposition blames the government for not sending the bills to a select committee for further scrutiny, the government for its part said the opposition created a ruckus in the house and chose to disrupt the proceedings instead of seeking a division of votes when the bills were taken up for passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The government has denied the accusation of the opposition and a faction of the protesting farmers that the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 will benefit corporates and end the minimum support price guaranteed by the government.
The opposition is also expected to corner the government on the state of the economy, and its response to the coronavirus pandemic. “There is a whole gamut of issues that the government has to answer including the ongoing farmers agitation if that is not resolved by then (by the time Parliament convenes).
Another important issue is the vaccine distribution; we need to know how the government plans to distribute the vaccine because the pandemic has been the biggest challenge. Besides there are other governance issues that the party will raise,” said Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Vivek Tankha.
During the last session, owing to the pandemic, the Question Hour was dispensed with, which was criticised by the opposition. The opposition parties had alleged that the government was shying away from answering questions.
“We hope the session is held in the usual way as is customary. There should be a Question Hour. The government seems to be gradually avoiding answering questions, whether it is inside Parliament or outside, even replies to questions filed under the Right to Information Act are either evasive or rejected on flimsy grounds,” said RS MP, Sukhendu Shekhar Ray of the Trinamool Congress.
Pinaki Misra, Lok Sabha MP from Puri in Odisha and a BJD leader also said that the opposition will raise a range of issues during the session. “We are looking forward to the session because there are a lot of pressing issues to discuss,” he said.