Thu, 28 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], Dec 3 (ANI): The Lok Sabha on Thursday saw a marathon debate on COVID-19 situation as Rajya Sabha passed a bill on dam safety.

During the long debate in Lok Sabha, which also saw political attacks from both the opposition and treasury benches, members expressed concern about Omicron variant and raised queries about "booster dose" and providing vaccination to the entire population of the country.

The House sat beyond midnight to conclude the discussion on "COVID-19 pandemic and various aspects related to it".

Rajendra Agrawal, who was in the chair, said that 74 members took part in the debate and there were other members who laid copies of their speeches on the table of the House.Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said that it was one of the longest debates under Rule 193.

During the debate, the opposition members cautioned against a possible third wave of pandemic due to the new variant and said all steps should be taken to prevent its spread in the country.

Opposition members found fault with government's policies regarding COVID-19 and accused it of being "complacent" before a serious second wave hit the country earlier this year. Members of BJP spoke about the steps taken by the government to boost health and medical infrastructure and step up vaccination against the disease.

Members expressed concern over the problems faced by children due to the pandemic, especially related to their education, and said there was also a "digital divide" which impacted the poor.

The members also drew attention towards psychological issues faced by people due to the disease. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Omicron variant is becoming a threat. "It has to be seen what is its global impact. Scientists have advised extreme caution against Omicron. Whatever information is available about the variant, it is most dangerous and has high rate of infection. There is need of timely steps and more alertness. The mistake of the past should not be repeated. If right steps had been taken at appropriate time (before second wave) so many people would not have lost their lives. There is a lot of value in timely action," he said.Noting that Omicron has been listed as variant of concern by the WHO, Chowudhury said there is risk of another possible wave due to new variant.

BJP's Dr Sujay Radhakrishna Vikhepatil slammed the opposition parties and said they only find fault with what government does.

Referring to coronavirus and its new variant, he said the only way to fight is to vaccinate people.He said that nearly 7 per cent people have been vaccinated in African countries and added that South Africa, which first reported the new variant, has fully vaccinated about 24 per cent of its people with first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. He said the virus mutates and it is important that people in African countries also get vaccines. "Global vaccination is the only way".

The BJP member said that 80 crore people in India had been given the first dose of vaccine and over 34 per cent people have received both doses of vaccines.

Vikhepatil said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had showed leadership in global vaccination but the opposition parties were slamming the government for export of vaccines.

Another BJP MP Tejasvi Surya made a scathing attack on Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi over their allegations against the government over its COVID-19 response.

"Rahul Gandhi does not seem like a responsible leader of opposition. He sounds more like doomsday-predicting wish doctor," Surya alleged.

He alleged that the opposition has behaved in a "petty manner" during the COVID-19 situation. He also accused leaders of Congress and some other opposition parties of creating "vaccine hesitancy" in initial days of vaccination.

Surya also accused the Congress of doing politics over vaccination. "I do not know what Congress has against Made in India vaccines. I understand they are very averse to have Made in India leaders in their party but their hatred towards Made in India vaccine costs the nation dear," Surya said.

He said no Congress-ruled states has given 100 per cent first dose vaccination to its population whereas two BJP-ruled states have done so and the party-ruled states also have higher rate of vaccination of two doses.

"Rahul Gandhi chose not to fight the virus. He chose to fight Narendra Modi. This shows pettiness of Congress politics," he said.

Surya said if Gandhi has taken vaccine against coronavirus, he should tell which vaccine he has taken and why has he not tweeted about it.

"Is he not proud of Made in India vaccine?" the BJP MP asked.He said 125 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccination have been administered in the country. He said the government worked diligently to ramp up liquid oxygen supply during the second wave of pandemic.

The BJP MP also talked of the steps taken by the government to ramp up medical infrastructure and to revive the economy amid challenges posed by the pandemic."When the country could achieve so much in one year, why Congress could not appoint a full-time president?" he asked.

"If there is distress, we need hope and that is what the Prime Minister has given. India will be resilient," he added. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that government had delayed giving vaccination orders. He claimed that 40 lakh people had died due to the disease in the country. Some opposition members also raised concerns over reports which cited the government as saying that no state had COVID-19 deaths due to shortage of oxygen had been reported by states.

DMK's Dr DNV Senthilkumar S said Omicron variant is more dangerous than delta variant with higher risk of re-infection. "With regard to the COVID situation -- be it the first wave or the second phase or the anticipated third phase -- the government's reaction has always been reactive and not pro-active. Initially, there were confusions in the travel advisories and proper screening was not done at the airports at the beginning of the months of January and February and suddenly the Prime Minister appeared and he announced a 21-day lockdown with a four-hour notice, with no preparation or no prior warning to the common man," he said.

He said lakhs of workers were forced to migrate due to the government's decisions. Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar of Trinamool Congress said there were unanswered questions about the origin of the virus which originated in China.

"Is this mutating virus man-made? Then how was it created and let loose in the world is a big question which a lot of researchers are thinking about," she said. She recalled the contribution of medical fraternity in the fight against coronavirus.The TMC member said the government should tell when all people of the country will be able to get both doses of vaccine.

"When can we not complete the second dose which we were supposed to complete by December or January? Why have we not done it yet? Also, there is a suggestion by the experts all over the world that people who are above the age of 65 and who have co-morbidities should be given the booster doses. What is the policy of the Government regarding booster doses? What is the policy of this Government regarding inoculating or vaccinating the children or young adults as they are our future? she asked.

She said there was need to make people aware of the new variant. BJP member Dr Kirit Premjibhai Solanki said the government is running the biggest COVID-19 vaccination programme in the world and inoculation is being boosted through programmes such as 'har ghar dastak'.

He referred to steps to increase supply of ventilators, number of hospital beds and to Ayushman Bharat mission. He also said that vaccination reduces impact of virus variant. Other BJP members spoke about various other initiatives of the government including PM Garib Kalyan Yojana.

JP's Tapir Gao said that there were concerns about the new variant of virus but the government will find a solution to the challenge. NCP's Dr Amol Ramsing Kolhe said there was need to provide RT-PCR testing at block level and more facilities should be created for genome sequencing. The Rajya Sabha, which saw two adjournments and a walkout of opposition, later passed a bill providing for surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all specified dams across the country.

The Dam Safety Bill, 2019 was passed after a reply by Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. It was earlier passed by Lok Sabha.In his reply to the debate, the minister said the bill incorporates suggestions of the standing committee. He sought to allay the apprehensions of opposition members that the bill encroaches on the powers of states.

The bill provides for the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety to prevent dam failure-related disasters and to maintain standards of dam safety. The committee will evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required. (ANI)

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