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Govt yields in Rajya Sabha, agrees to send Mining Bill to panel

The government today was faced with a belligerent Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, which demanded that the Mines and Minerals (Amendment) Bill be sent to a select committee for scrutiny.

To save face, the government, which is in minority in the Upper House, yielded to the demand for a timebound committee. The Chairman would decide on the panel’s duration and composition tomorrow.

Incidentally, the contentious Land Acquisition Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, is likely to meet the same fate in the Upper House.

ALSO READ: Lok Sabha clears Land Acquisition Bill

Only last week, the government had to eat humble pie, after a united Opposition successfully moved an amendment to the President’s address.

There were heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches all through the six hours that the House wrangled over the Bill. Minister Narendra Singh Tomar argued that the Bill would help in bringing in greater revenue through auctions for state and hence should be given primacy.

CPM’s P Rajeeve had moved an amendment for sending the Bill to a select committee of the House and demanded it be put to vote; a move that was initially fought tooth and nail by the government.

While terming Rajeeve’s amendment as ‘infructuous’, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley himself offered that the government had no objection to the bill being sent to a time-bound select committee.

When the Bill was taken up after lunch, the opposition benches attacked the government for not only adopting the ordinance route but also bypassing the procedure of scrutiny before a standing committee.  

While the government objected to this citing the ‘urgency’ as the Ordinance would lapse by April 5, the Congress-led Opposition dug in its heels. For over three hours both sides sparred over the technicalities resulting in repeated adjournments over whether the bill or the vote on sending the bill to a select committee should be taken up first.     

The bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley attempted to underscore the ‘urgency’ behind promulgating three ordinances which had been placed before the house as bills – the Mining Bill, the Motor Vehicles Bill and the Coal Mines Bill. 

Jaitley said while the fate of poor rickshaw pullers was dependant on the passing of the Motor Vehicles Bill, the auction of coal blocks and electricity production was dependant on the Coal Bill and delay in passing the Mining Bill would prevent a large amount of money going to states having sizeable tribal population.

The House sat till late to discuss the Mining Bill with parties putting across the view.

Trinamool congress and BJD spoke in favour of the bill. The congress in opposition had the support of the Left parties, BSP and SP in demanding a select committee.