Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to interact with leaders of various political parties from both Houses of Parliament on Friday to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country.
Floor leaders of all parties from the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha have been invited for the virtual meeting to be held from 10.30am onwards.
This will be the second all-party meeting called by the government to discuss the Covid-19 situation since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The first meeting was held on April 20 amid a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan and parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi will also attend today’s meeting.
The floor leaders of different parties who are expected to attend the meeting include Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Lok Sabha) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (Rajya Sabha) of the Congress, Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Lok Sabha) and Derek O’ Brien (Rajya Sabha) of the Trinamool Congress, Midhun Reddy (Lok Sabha) and Vijayasai Reddy (Rajya Sabha) of the YSR Congress Party.
The government is likely to brief the leaders about steps taken to deal with the pandemic and the progress made in vaccine development and distribution.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted about the meeting, hoping that the PM will also clarify by when every Indian will be given Covid-19 vaccine. “In today’s all-party meeting, we hope the PM clarifies by when will every Indian get free Covid vaccine,” he wrote.
The Prime Minister has held multiple meetings – the last one on November 24 – with chief ministers, laying special emphasis on states with high Covid-19 caseload to review the situation there and offer suggestions and also discussed the vaccine administration and distribution.
On Monday, he held a virtual meeting with three teams working on developing and manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine.
He had also visited pharmaceutical companies in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune on Saturday to review coronavirus vaccine development work there.
India has recorded the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world after the United States but is one of the countries with the lowest deaths per million population globally, according to the Union health ministry.
The meeting also comes a day after Chowdhury’s letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla urging him to convene a short winter session of the House to discuss several issues, including the farmers’ agitation and preparation of the Covid-19 vaccine.
In his letter, Chowdhury said the winter session be convened with all the Covid-19 protocols in place to help the people understand the important issues the country is facing at present.
“There are a number of very important issues that the nation is facing in present times. The most notable among them are the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the status/preparation of the Covid-19 vaccine,” the letter read.
Chowdhury also listed issues such as economic slowdown, unemployment, continuous stand-off along the India-China border and unabated ceasefire violation along the India-Pakistan border for immediate discussion in Parliament.
“There is a need for a thorough and transparent debate/discussion on all the above-mentioned important issues,” he said.
Last month, Birla had said the Lok Sabha Secretariat is ready to hold the winter session but the dates will be decided by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
Chowdhury’s demand was also supported by his party colleagues Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor. Tewari demanded that the winter session of Parliament be convened at the earliest to debate various pressing issues facing the country like the ongoing farmers’ protest against agriculture reform laws, Chinese aggression and the Covid-19 crisis.
He said parliamentarians “owe it to the country to lead by example by not avoiding our duties” because of Covid-19.
“It is all the more important to convene the Parliament for the winter session in view of the farmers’ uprising when tens of thousands of farmers from different parts of the country are protesting around Delhi to seek the repealing of three controversial agricultural laws,” the former union minister said.
“And the Parliament is the best forum to debate and deliberate on these while keeping in view the concerns and demands of the farmers,” he added.
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states have been camping at border points of Delhi for over a week now to protest the Centre’s three agriculture reform laws which were enacted in September. Tewari said various parliamentary panels such as the standing committees and joint parliamentary committees are already holding regular meetings. “There is no logic or reason to skip the winter session of the House. Skipping an entire session of Parliament will not only set a bad precedent but will send a wrong signal across the country,” he added.
“The show must go on,” the Congress leader said.