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Rajya Sabha panels submit reports on coal, mines bills; Congress protests

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Rajya Sabha Select Committees on Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and Coal Mines Bill on Wednesday recommended their approval without any change, leading the Congress to strongly protest over the measures being rushed without taking on board the concerns of stakeholders.

Protesting Congress members trooped into the Well of the House, forcing a 10 minute adjournment, after the reports of the two Select Committees were presented in the House. The 19-member panel on the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 that provides for allocating coal mines through auction, referred the Bill to the House for passage without any change. The report also contained five dissenting notes from Digvijaya Singh (Cong), P Bhattacharya and Rajeev Shukla (all Cong), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and K N Balagopal (CPI-M).

The one on the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, too recommended no change in any of the clauses. However, it wanted the government to consider at a later stage issues like impact of mining activities on environment, rampant illegal mining, lack of proper and scientific mine closure, land acquisition and resettlement and capturing windfall profits for the welfare of local and tribal communities.
“The Committee, in view of limited ambit of amending Bill under its consideration, is of the opinion that these issues are of utmost significance that warrant serious consideration by the government.

“The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry should consider these issues to be incorporated subsequently in the MMDR Act, 1957 at an appropriate stage as well as in the relevant rules/regulations required to be framed thereunder,” it said. Soon after Bhupender Yadav (BJP) tabled the Report of the Select Committee on the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 and Anil Madhav Dave (BJP) tabled the Report on the Select Committee on Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad rose to register his party’s protest. “We want to register our protest against the manner in which the two bills are being rushed for passage,” he said.

The Bills, Azad said, were not referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees as demanded in the first place. After the Select Committees were asked to look into the bills, Congress had wanted the report to come in the first week of the second part of the Budget session of Parliament, he maintained.

He claimed that the panels had also not taken the concerns of all stakeholders including Opposition parties on board while finalising the report. “The concerns of stakeholders were not taken on board,” he said, adding that the views of state governments as well as the union ministries of tribal welfare, environment and forest, and labour, were also not taken before finalising the report. “Whole purpose of sending the bills to Select Committees has been rendered meaningless,” the Congress leader said.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said reservations on the bills could be taken up when the House debates them. Select Committee has a procedure and members in the committee can raise issues there, he said, as Congress members started shouting slogans against the government and BJP and rushed into the Well. “I am not allowing all this. This is indiscipline. You are not allowing me to speak,” Kurien said, adding “I am not allowing all this nonsense. This is nothing but nonsense.” “Whatever reservations you had, you should have said in the Select Committee… you could have complained to the Chairman,” he said, adding “you can raise it at the time of discussion” on the Bill.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there was no provision in the rules to provide for a discussion on presentation of the Select Committee report and members can raise their issues during debate on the Bills. Kurien asked the agitating members to resume their places but his pleas when unheeded. “This is unfortunate, very unfortunate,” he said and adjourned the House for 10 minutes. During the break, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal were seen in discussions with Azad, Digvijaya Singh and others apparently explaining the provisos. The House resumed normal functioning when it met after the brief adjournment.

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