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NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Friday said that the lower ohuse of parliament saw 68.65 per cent average attendance of members during the monsoon session, which had 10 sittings and was held with precautions against Covid-19.

Birla said that 8,700 Covid-19 tests were done during the session in parliament, which began on September 14 amid several precautionary measures and ended on September 23.

“As it was an extraordinary session due to Covid-19, regular Covid tests were being done in the parliament,” he added.

He said the debate on Covid-19 lasted for 5 hours 8 minutes and 74 MPs participated in the discussion.

Ahead of the session, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria briefed MPs on Covid precautionary measures on September 13 and September 14.

For the first time in the history of Parliament, members of both houses sat in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha including galleries during the proceedings to maintain social distancing.

The Speaker told the media that the session saw several achievements though it as full of challenges amid conditions created by Covid-19.

“India’s democracy is strong and people have faith in it. Since 1952, voters’ percentage has increased as they exhibited faith in democracy. Many countries held their Parliament virtually. The kind of support we received from all political parties and government, we were able to finish more work compared to the time we had. We saw a good percentage of MPs present in Parliament,” added the Speaker.

On the first day of the session, 369 MPs attended the Lok Sabha. The maximum number of MPs were present on September 22 when 383 MPs attended the house, he said.

The average attendance was 370 which translates into 68.65 per cent.

The monsoon session was adjourned sine die on September 23 after several opposition parties during the meeting of Business Advisory Committee (BAC) suggested curtailment of session due to Covid-19 spread.

Lok Sabha passed 25 bills and 16 were introduced. Eleven bills related to ordinances brought by the government. The bills were cleared after discussion that lasted 35 hours 24 minutes.

The productivity for 10 days, including the House sittings on Saturday and Sunday, was 167 per cent. The House worked for 60 hours against the proposed 37 hours.

Sixty-eight per cent time was used for legislative business whereas 32 per cent was allocated for other things like the zero hour.

During Zero hour, 88 MPs raised issues of public importance. The House devoted 10 hours 23 minutes for matters of public importance and 370 MPs spoke during the zero hour.

A total of 183 issues were raised under rule 377.

The House spent 5 hours and 36 minutes discussing two farm bills – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. Forty-four MPs took part in the discussion.

Other bills passed include the Essential Commodities Act, 2020, National Defence University Bill, 2020 and Epidemic Diseased (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The Speaker said that MPs did not press want division on bills. “We would have done that if asked for,” he said.

In a first, an app was also used to register attendance. On September 20, 59 members registered themselves through the app.

“To finish important legislative business, we sat for long hours on September 20 and 21. Out of 78 women MPs, 63 spoke on the issues important to them,” Birla said.

A total of 2,300 starred questions were asked and 90 per cent of questions were asked online.

Dr Subhash Ramrao Bhante and Dr DNV D Senthil Kumar, both asked maximum 49 questions.

The maximum 167 questions were asked from the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, 150 from Agriculture Ministry and 11 each from the Railway Ministry and Finance Ministry.

The ministers gave 40 replies. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement on Ladakh border situation, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on COVID-19 and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar spoke on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and agriculture bills.

A total of 855 papers were laid on the table by ministers.

On the construction of the new building of parliament, Birla expressed hope that the new building will have the session coinciding with the 75th year of Independence.

“We are in the process of making a new building of Parliament. The estimated expenditure is Rs 892 crores. The tender cost is Rs 891.9 crores. And this has to be completed in 21 months. I believe we will have a new parliament in 75th year of Independence,” he said.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East




UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo




NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval




NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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