New Delhi: Amidst unprecedented safety measures in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the much-awaited monsoon session of the Parliament began today with the Rajya Sabha Chairman, M Venkaiah Naidu urging the members to make optimal use of the time by deliberating meaningfully and legislating through consensus.

For the first time in the history of Indian Parliament, both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha halls are being used for the sitting of one house at a time to enable members to fully adhere to social distancing norms. The Rajya Sabha now includes not only its own Chamber and Galleries but also the Chamber of the Lok Sabha.

In his opening remarks, Naidu pointed to the substantial business agenda before the House and appealed to all the members to enable the smooth conduct of the proceedings.

Referring to the schedule of only 18 sittings during the brief Session, Naidu stressed that primary focus would be to ensure meaningful discussions on important legislations and the issues concerning the nation, including COVID-19 pandemic.

Expressing his happiness to meet with the Members after a gap of 175 days, he observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest disaster to strike humankind since the Spanish Flu about 100 years ago. He said that in spite of India being the second most populous country, the damage due to the pandemic has been contained to the minimum– both in terms of scale of infections and case fatality ratio.

Stating that COVID-19 pandemic has defined a new normal and severely affected the nation and economy, he lauded the remarkable services being rendered by the frontline warriors, including Doctors, Nurses, Police, Paramilitary forces, sanitary workers, media personnel and essential service providers.  He also complimented the farmers for having achieved record production despite the lockdown restrictions. He also expressed the hope that the efforts of scientists for a vaccine would come to fruition in the near future.

Stating that the Department Related Standing Committees have started functioning after the ease of travel restrictions, Naidu said they examined various aspects of the pandemic and its impact during the inter-session period. Seven such Committees of Rajya Sabha have held 26 meetings since July this year and spent a total time of 56 hours and 40 minutes deliberating on various issues of which over 50 hours was spent discussion various aspects of the pandemic, its impact and management.