Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Tuesday said that this year’s Budget Session will commence from January 29, but with staggered timings and physical distancing rules, in view of the coronavirus pandemic, reported ANI. The Question Hour, which had been cancelled in the September session, would be allowed for a fixed duration of one hour, he said, according to PTI.

The Union budget will be presented in Parliament on February 1. The Budget Session will be conducted in two parts, according to NDTV. The first phase will begin on January 29 and end on February 15. The second phase will run from March 8 to April 8.

Birla said the Houses would have staggered timings. “Rajya Sabha will sit from 9 am to 2 pm, Lok Sabha 4-8 pm,” he said. “Zero Hour and Question Hour will be held. All MPs will be requested to undergo RT-PCR test before the start of Parliament session.” The Lok Sabha Speaker added that arrangements for Covid-19 screening will be made in Parliament as well as near the homes of the parliamentarians.

The Opposition, constitutional experts and citizens had widely criticised the Narendra Modi government for unilaterally deciding to scrap the Question Hour during the entire session of September, noting that the rules of the House do not sanction it.

Usually, every sitting starts with questions, which last for an hour. Questions are asked by members of Parliament to seek information on various activities of the government.

The Centre had cited “extraordinary situation” from the coronavirus crisis for its decision. But Opposition parties said the Question Hour was cancelled as the government wanted to evade questions on China, the coronavirus pandemic, the state of India’s economy, and most recently, the new agricultural legislations.

No subsidy in Parliament canteen

Meanwhile, Birla on Tuesday also announced that the food subsidies at the Parliament canteen have been removed completely. Unidentified officials told News18 that the move would save the Lok Sabha Secretariat an annual amount of over Rs 8 crore.

Birla added that the the Parliament canteens will now be run by the India Tourism Development Corporation in place of Northern Railways.