Passing notes may be a strict no-no in exam halls but will be allowed in Parliament to maintain social distancing during the Covid pandemic, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said Friday, to the amusement of gathered parliamentarians.
Mr Naidu's observation was part of a government reminder to MPs about coronavirus guidelines in effect during the monsoon session of Parliament, which started on Monday and is the first since it was adjourned in March following the nationwide lockdown.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman also cautioned members against approaching their colleagues when the House is in session to "bend and whisper in their ears".
"No member is expected to come to the office table when House is in session... members are (also) requested not to go to other members' seats and bend and whisper in their ears... please avoid," Mr Naidu said today before beginning Zero Hour proceedings.
"If you have something to communicate send slips. It is not allowed in exam halls but is allowed here," he added, prompting a round of laughter.
Mr Naidu also urged MPs to not visit his office; he said that while he normally enjoyed meeting people, under the present circumstances safety norms should be strictly followed.
Parliament began working this week amid strict restrictions on physical contact and seating. MPs were asked to provide negative COVID-19 test results before attending their respective Houses.
The Chairman's appeals come as nine of the Rajya Sabha's 219 members were found to be Covid-positive before the session started Monday.
One - the BJP's Vinay Sahastrabudhe - initially tested negative but re-tested positive yesterday.
Meanwhile, 17 members of the Lok Sabha also tested positive in the mandatory RT-PCR tests conducted in the parliament building complex. Tw
Yesterday Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari also tested positive.
On Wednesday Mr Naidu reminded parliamentarians to wear face masks at all times inside the House. This was after a Samajwadi Party (SP) MP sought permission to remove it while speaking.
"I personally spoke to Director General of the ICMR (India's top medical research body), he told me it is better to keep the mask on (at all times) since this hall is air conditioned," Mr Naidu told the SP's Ram Gopal Yadav.
In an April advisory the government recommended that to prevent the virus from spreading in closed spaces, rooms with air conditioning must be well-ventilated and humidified. Some windows should be opened or exhaust units activated to ensure circulation of fresh air, the advisory said.
India has reported over 52 lakh coronavirus cases so far, of which more than 84,000 are deaths linked to the virus and over 10 lakh are active cases. It is the second most badly affected country in the world.
With input from PTI