CHANDIGARH: The monsoon session of the Haryana Assembly is set to begin here on Wednesday with the authorities putting strict protocols in place in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides the MLAs and officials requiring a coronavirus negative certificate to gain entry into the Assembly complex, seating arrangement has also been changed to ensure social distancing in the 90-member House.
Just before the starting of the session, the pandemic has already cast its shadow with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Speaker Gian Chand Gupta and Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma testing positive for the virus.
BJP MLAs Lakshman Napa, Ram Kumar Kashyap and Aseem Goel also tested positive as have six Assembly staffers, officials said.
Khattar is currently admitted to Gurgaon's Medanta Hospital, where his condition is stable, an official said.
During the past two weeks, Haryana has seen a spike in infection cases, which are close to the 55,000-mark with over 600 fatalities.
In the Speaker's absence, Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa will be presiding over the House proceedings.
Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala said the duration of the session will be decided by the Business Advisory Committee of the House.
Earlier, the Speaker had made it mandatory for anyone entering the Assembly complex for the monsoon session to show a COVID-19 negative certificate, which should not be older than three days.
This was done on Health Minister Anil Vij's suggestion.
The seating arrangements in the House have also been changed to ensure social distancing, officials said.
Only one MLA can sit on a bench as against two earlier. The Speaker's as well as visitors' galleries have been converted into a Sitting place where legislators will be accommodated with social distancing, said officials.
In the officer's gallery, as against the capacity of 36, only 18 people will be allowed to sit.
No visitor will be allowed to watch the Assembly proceedings this time. A kit containing masks, gloves and sanitisers will also be provided at the seats to the legislators. Every paper to be laid on the table of the House will go through sanitisation.
At the entry to the Vidhan Sabha, shoe covers will be provided.
Officials said media persons will not be allowed to enter the Vidhan Sabha complex this time but arrangements have been made at a nearby government building to enable them cover the event where proceedings of the House will be shown live on screens.
Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja told reporters here on Tuesday that her party, which is the main the opposition in Haryana, welcomes the strict protocols put in place to tackle the infection.
"Such measures are necessary to keep everyone safe amid the pandemic," she said.
The Assembly is meeting for the first time since the Budget session held in February-March this year.
The House has to meet at least once in six months to meet the constitutional requirement of holding a session within six months of the previous one.