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PM seeks unequivocal support of MPs over India-China conflict at monsoon session


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sought unequivocal support from all Members of Parliament (MPs) over the ongoing border dispute with China in Ladakh. On the first day of the monsoon session, Modi said a clear message should go out that the entire country is standing with our soldiers.

This is the first session of Parliament since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, and is being held adhering to social distancing rules. “I believe that all members of the Parliament will give an unequivocal message that the country stands with our soldiers," said PM Modi before the start of the session on Monday.

Modi said a vaccine against covid-19 should be developed at the earliest. The PM said efforts were being made to bring everyone out of the situation.

“Till the time there is no vaccine, we cannot relax. We want a vaccine to be developed at the earliest from any corner of the world; our scientists succeed and we succeed in bringing everyone out of this problem," said the PM.

With regard to the session and parliamentarians choosing the path of duty despite the situation caused by the pandemic, Modi said, “This time both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha will be held at different times in a day. It will be held on Saturday and Sunday, too. All MPs accepted this."

Tensions have been running high between India and China since May when India detected multiple intrusions into Indian territory in Ladakh by Chinese troops. India sent in hundreds of thousands of its soldiers to bolster security after China moved in thousands of troops, tanks, aircraft and missile batteries to the border within its territory facing Ladakh.

Many rounds of talks at the level of senior commanders have not yielded any result. But at a meeting of the foreign ministers of India and China last week, both countries agreed on five points, including the need to reduce tensions. Analysts say this has led to temporary truce between the two sides, though the Indian army is set for the long haul and prepared to maintain its positions along the heights of five features it captured in August besides some areas around the Pangong Tso in the coming winter months, given that trust between the two countries has been a casualty due to the intrusions that have taken place in violation of pacts signed over the years since 1993.

The monsoon session is being held with stringent social distancing norms and restrictions in place keeping in view the growing spread of coronavirus pandemic. The 18-day-long session will have many firsts, including being the first time that lawmakers will have spaced out seating, no simultaneous sitting of both the Houses, no off days, including weekends, and, above all, entry restricted to only those with a covid-19 negative report.

With the exception of Monday, where Lok Sabha sat in the morning, the rest of the session will see Rajya Sabha holding its sitting from 9 am to 1 pm and Lok Sabha will meet from 3 pm to 7 pm. During the sitting of either of the Houses, chambers of both Houses and public galleries would be used to spread seating of members. The two-hour gap between the two shifts will be used to sanitize the Houses.

The session also will not have question hour and zero hour will be limited to 30 minutes, an arrangement that Opposition parties have strongly opposed. According to a report by Press Trust of India, each MP is being provided with a multi-utility covid-19 kit, which includes 40 disposable masks, five N-95 masks, 20 bottles of sanitizers of 50 ml each, face shields, 40 pairs of gloves, a touch-free hook to open and close doors without touching them, herbal sanitation wipes and tea bags to enhance immunity.

"Before the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which starts today under extraordinary circumstances, I urge the leaders and honorable members of all parties to cooperate in the smooth running of the House so that we can further strengthen democratic traditions," Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla posted on Twitter on Monday.

The first day of the session will be hectic with legislative business lined up for both Houses. Rajya Sabha will see election of its deputy chairman besides four Bills slated for introduction; in the Lok Sabha, 8 Bills are slated for introduction, including those for which ordinances have been brought in recently. Two Bills in both the Houses have been listed for consideration and passage. A statement by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan regarding covid-19 will be given in both Houses.