The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has devised an elaborate plan involving a special 40-member team to sanitise Parliament before and during the monsoon session, which begins next week in the backdrop of a recent spike in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the Capital, officials said on Friday.
Deep cleaning of Parliament whenever there is an adjournment, and regular sanitisation of the entire complex, are two highlights of the plan, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
They pointed out that the first phase of the sanitisation drive has already begun in and around the complex and that it will be completed in the next two days. Officials also said NDMC, along with the Union health ministry and the New Delhi district administration, is conducting Covid-19 tests on parliamentary staff at 10 centres in the complex.
The monsoon session will convene on September 14 and continue till October 1.
According to a senior NDMC official, the special team will carry out sanitisation drives three times on a typical work day while the House is in session — before the sitting every morning, during breaks, and when the session is adjourned for the day.
“We will also ensure deep sanitisation every time the session is adjourned on any issue. Sanitiser dispensing machines have been installed on the premises. We don’t want to take any chances as the session is being conducted amid the pandemic,” the official said.
He said extra staff will be on standby to ensure there is no laxity in sanitisation, testing and cleanliness.
This official added that the team — it will be deployed in addition to the staff deployed for usual cleanliness work in the complex — has been divided into two groups of 20 workers. “One group will ensure deep cleaning and sanitisation inside Parliament House, while the other will take care of the areas outside such as corridors, offices of ministers and staff rooms, among other places,” the official said.
In normal circumstances, the civic body carries out cleaning exercises and drives against mosquitoes in the complex before any session, another NDMC official said. But this year, there are additional responsibilities of testing and thorough daily sanitisation in the wake of the pandemic, he added.
“We are dedicated to ensuring a safe session of Parliament. Thorough sanitisation exercises will be conducted. However, we will be doing it for the first time on such a large scale. At this point, we will not be able to tell the exact time needed to conduct the daily exercises,” the second official said.
A third official, who is from NDMC’s public health department, said the civic agency has been conducting Covid-19 testing for Parliament officials and staff since September 5.
“Our testing process is underway at 10 testing centres set up in the Parliament complex at different locations…With the House commencing on Monday, the number of testing centres will be increased. Covid-19 testing counters will be opened at all entry gates of parliament building premises,” the official said.
PK Sharma, former head of NDMC’s public health department, said: “It is good that thorough sanitisation exercises and testing will be done, as nearly 1,000 people are expected to be on the premises…Along with precautionary measures by concerned agencies, public cooperation and strict enforcement of guidelines are key to controlling the spread of the virus.”
The additional safety steps come at a time when Parliament is preparing to hold the session under the shadow of the coronavirus. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha authorities are focusing on every detail to ensure the safety of lawmakers and workers during the 18-day session.
Doorstep Covid-19 tests for MPs, the freedom to deliver a speech in the House while seated, options to undergo real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test at their constituency before heading to Delhi, and one-way movement in the Central Hall and key corridors are some of the new measures the House will adopt.
Visitors and media persons will not be allowed access to areas, including the Central Hall, during the upcoming session. Media, however, will be allowed to cover the session from press gallery. There will be no question hour.