Two key bills aimed at reforming coal and mines sectors are in for a delay as these were on Wednesday referred to separate committees of Parliament after the government buckled under pressure from a united opposition to do so.
The Select Committees, set up by the Rajya Sabha, were asked to submit their reports by March 18, two days before Parliament goes for a month-long recess in the Budget session.
The government bowed to opposition pressure and agreed to refer these bills to the Select Committees after it faced the prospect of yet another embarrassment in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday night when opposition amendments to the Mines bill appeared set to be passed.
Rajya Sabha on Wednesday referred the bills to the two Select Committees, each having 19 members. The two Committees were finalised after a meeting Leader of the House and finance minister Arun Jaitley had with leaders of various parties, including Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad Wednesday morning.
The Select Committee to look into the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, will be chaired by Bhupender Yadav of BJP and will have 18 other members from various parties.
The Committee to look into the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, will be headed by Anil Madhav Dave of BJP and has 18 other members from various parties. Both the Bills seek to replace the Ordinances issued by the government in this regard. The House on Tuesday saw a battle of wits for hours as opposition pressed for sending the Mines bill to a Select Committee which the government tried to stonewall, though unsuccessfully in the end.
Two almost identical motions said the bills are being sent to the Select Committees "with instructions to report to the Rajya Sabha not later than 18th March, 2015 to enable the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing during the first part of the Budget Session."
The other members of the Committee looking into the Coal Mines bill include V P Singh Badnore and Baswaraj Patil (both BJP), Digvijaya Singh, P Bhattacharya and Rajeev Shukla (all Congress), Naresh Agarwal (SP), K C Tyagi (JD-U), Narendra Kumar Kashyap (BSP), Anubhav Mohanty (BJD), K N Balagopal (CPI-M), Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) and Vandana Chavan (NCP) and Tiruchi Siva (DMK).
It also has Devender Goud T (TDS), AW Rabi Bernard (AIADMK), Naresh Gujral (SAD), Anil Desai (SS) and Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Ind). The other members of the Select panel to look into the Mines and Minerals Bill are Tarun Vijay and Ram Narain Dudi (both BJP), Shantaram Naik and Mani Shankar Aiyar (both Congress), K T S Tulsi (Nom), Ravi Prakash Verma (SP), Derek O'Brien (TMC), A W Rabi Bernard (AIADMK), Pavan Kumar Varma (JD-U), Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) and TK Rangarajan (CPI-M). Kalpataru Das BJD), C M Ramesh (TDP), Majeed Memon (NCP), K P Ramalingam (DMK), Balwinder Singh Bhunder (SAD), D Raja (CPI) and Parimal Nathwani (Ind) are also members of the panel.
While the Motion to send the Bill to Select Committee was approved by the house, a statutory resolution moved by some members to disapprove the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Second Ordinance, 2014 was withdrawn.
In the Upper House, where BJP and its allies are woefully short of numbers, government tried to stonewall the opposition demand for sending the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 to a Select Committee and kept pressing for its passage on Tuesday.
Soon after the Bill was moved for consideration, opposition moved amendments, creating possibility of putting government in an embarrassing situation as the ruling coalition is in a minority and the amendments would have got adopted. The government then agreed to refer the bill to a Select Committee, warding off an embarrassment after having faced such a situation in the House only last week when an opposition amendment to the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address was adopted.
The situation created a ticklish task for deputy chairman PJ Kurien, who after arguments and counter-arguments from both sides finally settled the matter on the basis of a consensus in the House and agreed to government's demand for leaving the matter till morning to finalise the names for the Select panel.