With just two days left for the Monsoon Session of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly to begin, 20 Assembly staff members, including security personnel, have tested positive for Covid-19.
Speaker Hriday Narain Dikshit confirmed that about 300 Assembly and other government staffers had been tested and 20 were found Covid positive.
The reports of other staffers were yet to come in and the number of Covid positive persons could go up further.
“Those who have tested positive include an officer of the under-secretary rank. We are waiting for the final test reports as about 300 staffers, who will be deployed to perform various works/assignments during the Monsoon Session, have been tested,” said an official of the Assembly Secretariat.
The Speaker has asked all Legislators to get themselves tested for the virus before they attend the Assembly session.
The Speaker said, “We are informing all members about the places in the Vidhayak Nivas or a point close to them that will have facility for testing from Wednesday. Testing facility will also be available in the Vidhan Bhawan complex.”
Asked whether the test will be mandatory for members, Dikshit said: “We will arrange the facility for Covid-19 tests for all members.”
Although senior officers of the Assembly Secretariat refused to comment on the issue, a large number of positive cases have raised serious concerns about the health of those to be deployed for work during the brief Monsoon Session.
Shatrudh Prakash, Samajwadi Party MLC has written to the Vidhan Parishad Chairman saying that all senior citizens in the House should be allowed to participate in the session virtually. However, his suggestion has been turned down.
Meanwhile, on August 20, the Assembly will be adjourned after mourning the deaths of its sitting members — cabinet ministers Kamal Rani Varun and Chetan Chauhan — who died after being admitted to hospitals for treatment of Covid-19.
The state government proposes to carry out Legislative Business in the remaining two days, tabling ordinances that have been promulgated after the last session and the bills to replace them.
The Uttar Pradesh Assembly has a sanctioned strength of 403 members. As seven seats are vacant, the effective strength of the Assembly has come down to 396 members. When constituted in 2017, the Assembly had nearly half of its members in less than 50-year age group.
Ten ministers and ruling party’s members, leader of opposition Ram Govind Chaudhary and other Samajwadi Party members have undergone treatment for Covid-19.
The Assembly and Council Secretariats are taking all safety precautions. In both the Houses the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ lobbies, along with viewers’ galleries, will be used to ensure a vacant seat between two members to follow social distancing during the session.
The Assembly has decided to install ultraviolet filters in the air-conditioning system. Automatic sanitiser dispensers have been installed at the entry gates. The security personnel have been given infrared thermometers to scan members who are being asked to wear masks in the House. A mask will be gifted to members who reach the House without wearing one.