Congress-Left bypassed, bills on mines, coal set to be passed

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 18, 2015 01:07 IST

The contentious mines and minerals bill and coal auction bill may make it through Rajya Sabha in the next few days with some Opposition parties not in favour of the Congress and Left’s demand to give the select committees more time to study them.

The parliamentary panels are now expected to submit their reports on Wednesday itself.

In a major turnaround for the government, it has managed to get the support of the Trinamool Congress and BJD in the select committees, blunting the opposition from the Congress, Left, JD(U) and DMK.

The coal bill panel, sources said, has not suggested any changes to the official bill. The panel on the mines and minerals bill may recommend just one amendment pertaining to the rights of states.

If the panels don’t recommend major changes, it will make it easy for the government to pass the bills — already cleared by Lok Sabha — in the upper House.

Any amendment passed by Rajya Sabha requires the approval of the other House. With the first half of the budget session set to end on March 20, the government is ready to extend it by a day or two to pass the bills — which will replace ordinances that lapse on April 5.

Congress had sought more time in the select committees last Thursday, a day after a CBI court summoned former prime minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in a coal scam case. Singh had held the coal portfolio between 2004 and 2009.

In the coal panel, the Congress’ Digvijaya Singh, JD(U)’s KC Tyagi and CPI(M)’s KN Balagopal have submitted dissent notes to the draft report. The mines panel, too, has received three dissent notes.

Those on the opposing side are also said to have objected to the way the panels hurriedly reviewed the bills without consulting stakeholders.

“The select committee on the insurance bill held several meetings. But the coal panel refused to meet trade unions, state governments and other stakeholders. Only the power and coal ministry officials deposed before the panel,” said one Opposition leader.

“We will propose amendments to the bill on the floor of the House even though a part of the Opposition is supporting the government on these two bills,” said the CPM’s P Rajeeve.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill,, 2015 allows commercial mining of coal and auction of coal blocks, and comes in the wake of the Supreme Court last year ruling the allocation of more than 200 blocks between 1993 and 2009 as illegal.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill creates a new prospecting licence-cum-mining lease and allows a 50-year lease period for all minerals except coal and lignite.

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