Bhubaneswar: Perhaps for the first time in the history of Odisha Assembly, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik joined the session via videoconferencing from his residence Naveen Nivas here, Tuesday.
Eight legislators participated in the Assembly proceedings through videoconferencing from Lok Seva Bhawan and Collectors’ offices in their respective districts. Out of the remaining, 85 MLAs attended the session in the Assembly.
Prior to the commencement of the monsoon session, all the MLAs, personal security officers (PSOs) and Assembly staffers underwent tests for the novel coronavirus. Altogether 19 MLAs tested positive for COVID-19 during clinical examination on the Assembly premises during the last three days. As of now, 51 legislators, including nine ministers, have contracted the virus in the state, officials said.
Members present in the House wore face masks and face shields and were allotted seats in the Assembly hall, visitor’s gallery and other sections in order to maintain social distancing.
The seating arrangements have been changed. While some are allowed to participate in the session through videoconferencing, position of some MLAs has been changed from well of the House to the visitors’ gallery on the first floor. The change was made to ensure social distance in the House.
While preparing for the monsoon session, Speaker Surya Narayan Patro had said for the first time, glasses have been used inside the Assembly premises between seats of legislators and the visitors’ gallery will have provision to accommodate 52 MLAs.
Irrespective of party, members welcomed the changes made to prevent spread of coronavirus. “Though many new things have been introduced, it is okay for this time,” said Lanjigarh MLA Pradip Kumar Dishari.
Minister Sudam Marndi said, “All arrangements including social distance measures, face shields and gloves have been put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. I pray God that we will overcome the situation soon.” The monsoon session of the Assembly is scheduled to conclude October 7.