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Compulsory antigen tests, new seating arrangement: Maharashtra assembly gears up for monsoon session from September 7 


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MUMBAI: As the Maharashtra legislature gears up for its first coronavirus-era session, officials have put in place a slew of measures to ensure members do not contract the infection and house proceedings go on without any hindrance.

Compulsory antigen tests for legislators, distribution of COVID-19 kits and a new seating arrangement to ensure physical distancing among members are some of the measures undertaken for the two-day monsoon session beginning here on September 7, Vidhan Bhavan officials said.

The shortest-ever monsoon session in the history of the Maharashtra legislature is taking place in the backdrop of a raging COVID-19 pandemic which has already infected more than 8.43 lakh people in the state.

The brief session will take up supplementary demands and certain bills, among other legislature work.

There will be no question hour, calling attention and debates, parliamentary affairs minister Anil Parab told PTI.

This is also the first monsoon session of the Shiv Sena-led MVA government which assumed office in November last year.

The session has been postponed twice - it was originally scheduled from June 22 and was later shifted to the last week of August. The budget session in March was curtailed by a week after the first coronavirus case in Maharashtra was detected.

Since March-end, the state has been under the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, but restrictions have been gradually eased to allow the resumption of business activities and normal public life.

For the monsoon session, besides the regular areas seating arrangements have been made for legislators in visitors and students gallery to ensure physical distancing between them, the officials said.

On September 6, members of both the houses of the legislature will have to undergo antigen tests for the detection of coronavirus, they said.

Legislators will also be givenspecial kits that will consist of masks and face shields, among other items, the officials said.

Personal assistants (PAs) of lawmakers will not be allowed to accompany them inside the house and arrangements for them along with drivers of legislators have been made in the parking area of the assembly complex in south Mumbai, they said.

Members with comorbidities (pre-existing health conditions) will be asked by their group leaders to take extra precautions, they said.

Nearly half a dozen ministers in Maharashtra have been diagnosed with COVID-19 so far.

On Monday, both houses will pay tributes to former president Pranab Mukherjee and ex-Maharashtra chief minister Shivajirao Nilangekar who died recently, and will be adjourned for the day after tabling of supplementary demands and ordinances.

On Tuesday, discussion on supplementary demands will take place before their passage in the house.

The oppositionis likely to raise issues like the prevailing COVID-19 situation in Maharashtra, the controversy over conducting final-year university exams and the Sushant Singh Rajput case, among others, a senior BJP leader said.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)