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With TMC, BJD on board; govt now breathes easy

With TMC, BJD on board;  govt now breathes easy
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While Trinamool Congress (TMC) is in power in West Bengal and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, BJP is ruling in the states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. The ongoing session is likely to be extended now for two days before it breaks for recess to facilitate passage of the bill.

On Wednesday, reports of the two select committees, one on mines and minerals and the other on coal bills were tabled in Rajya Sabha amid protest from opposition benches. Last week the committees were set up and asked to submit their reports by Wednesday.

The bills are proposed to replace the existing ordinances and have already been cleared by the Lok Sabha. As soon as the reports were tabled, Leader of the Opposition in the House, Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that the committees had not taken concerns of different stakeholders into consideration.

Describing the move “meaningless”, Azad said his party wanted that both the reports should be tabled in the first week of the second phase of the Budget session beginning 20th of next month. he was supported by the Left, JD (U) and DMK. While replying to Azad’s demand, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Opposition can register its objections during discussion on both the bills. The situation turned acrimonious when Congress MPs expressed their dissatisfaction over Naqvi’s suggestion and trooped into the Well, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the House briefly.

They demanded  that the select committees be given more time to study reports but the government heaved a sigh of relief when TMC and BJD opposed the move in the committee, weakening the opposition ranks. 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.

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

With “least changes” in the bills, it is expected that the government might manage in getting the bills passed. The first half of the budget session is set to end on March 20 and 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.

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 order last year that the allocation of more than 200 blocks between 1993 and 2009 was 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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