Opposition walks out of Assam assembly demanding discussion on COVID-19 situation

The Opposition parties staged a walk-out on the first day of the autumn session of the Assam Legislative Assembly on August 31 after the speaker rejected their adjournment motion to discuss the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the state.

The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had given separate notice for adjournment of proceedings of the house to discuss the COVID-19 situation and its impact on different aspects of life in the state.

Clubbing the two notices together due to similarity, Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami allowed the discussion on the admissibility of the motion during the Zero Hour after Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia of the Congress agreed to withdrawal of Zero Hour proceedings.

Justifying their demand for the adjournment motion, Saikia said there was a need to discuss the health concerns as well as financial impact of the pandemic in the state.

He alleged that there were discrepancies in the treatment protocol for non-COVID patients, leading to deaths of many such patients.

He further claimed that whereas COVID-19 cases decreased due to lockdown in other states, in Assam, the number of cases increased.

Further, the centre has said there should be no lockdowns now, but the state government is enforcing lockdown in the state, Saikia alleged.

AIUDF leader Hafiz Bashir Ahmed said the COVID-19 situation is posing a great loss for the students in pursuing their education uninterrupted, which is a major cause of concern.

Citing various reports, he also pointed to the financial distress the people are facing due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, adding that the prevailing situation could also lead to serious security concerns.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, laying the government’s opposition to the adjournment motion, said the government is ready to present all facts before the people in the assembly, but the discussion should be initiated through other means and not adjournment motion.

“The chief minister has himself said the government is ready to answer all concerns. The Health minister also spoke to me this morning and said all facts will be presented. But it cannot be through an adjournment motion,” Patowary said.

Speaker Goswami, disallowing the adjournment, said since the government is prepared for discussion on the COVID-19 situation, the Opposition can initiate the discussion through other provisions.

“Refusal is my absolute power. The issue can be discussed through other devices,” Goswami said.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, both the Opposition parties took to their feet and displayed placards demanding discussion on the COVID-19 issue.

The Congress and AIUDF members then staged a walk-out from the house when the speaker remained unrelenting on his ruling.

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