Guwahati, August 31: The four-day Autumn session of Assam Assembly began on a sombre note on Monday with just 50 per cent of MLAs present inside the House to maintain social distancing norms for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The usual excitement found when the House is in session was missing in the Assembly complex.
All MLAs, senior officials such as the chief secretary and the director general of police, along with media personnel wore masks inside the House.
On the first day, the list of supplementary grants, a number of reports and 20 bills were tabled by the government.
The Question Hour took place, but the Speaker cancelled the Zero Hour so that two adjournment motions by the opposition can be raised.
In between a discussion, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said, “We probably never thought in our life that officially 50 per cent of members would be asked to attend the House. This pandemic has changed many rules.”
The Business Advisory Committee had decided that at any given time, there will only be 50 per cent MLAs inside the House and all parties have allotted time slots to their members accordingly, the Assembly Principal Secretary Mrigendra Kumar Deka told PTI.
The seating arrangements of the MLAs are such that two members sit together in a block. Now, the parties have issued time slots to their MLAs so that only one person in each block is present at any given time.
It was also decided that if a minister does not have any question to answer, then he or she will listen to the proceedings from their respective chambers, Deka said.
The body temperature of everyone entering the Assembly complex was checked. Sanitiser dispensers were kept at the gates and several other places inside the premises.
For the media, only one entry pass was issued to one organization this time against the earlier practice of issuing multiple passes on individual’s names from a single establishment.
Only reporters of news channels were allowed and their camera persons were not issued any cards. The Assembly administration provided them with video footage.
To ensure social distancing, chairs for officials and journalists were arranged in such a way that there is a large gap between two persons. No visitors were allowed this time.
However, hardly any social distancing norm was followed in the canteen of the Assembly with most people jostling for a space among the crowd.
A few people were also seen loitering in the compound without wearing masks.
A camp was set up in the Assembly premises and all MLAs, employees and journalists who would cover the proceedings were tested for coronavirus infection in the past three days.
In the camp, at least 24 persons, including five lawmakers, have tested positive for the disease.
The five MLAs who were found infected with the virus between Friday and Sunday are Bir Bhadra Hagjer (BJP), Naren Sonowal (AGP), Rituparna Baruah (BJP), Anwar Hussain Laskar (AIUDF) and Najrul Hoque (AIUDF).
At least 24 legislators have tested positive for the disease so far and more than 10 MLAs, including former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, are being treated at different hospitals across the state.
Earlier this month, 12 employees of the Assembly have tested positive for COVID-19. (PTI)