Two days after a compromise between the government and the Congress brightened the prospects of its passage in Parliament, the CAMPA Bill landed in fresh trouble on Monday, as the Congress members blocked its introduction in the Rajya Sabha. They demanded that another Bill, proposing a special package for Andhra Pradesh, be discussed first.
The Congress changed its stance as it was angry that the private bill, listed by K V Ramachandra Rao on Friday, was not taken up for discussion. The opposition members blamed the treasury benches for disrupting House proceedings on that day and demanded that Rao’s Bill be taken up before CAMPA. They repeatedly disrupted the House when it met after lunch; as a result, Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice for 15 minutes each time before being adjourned for the day.
Later in the day, the Congress indicated that it might allow a discussion on CAMPA on Tuesday if the government gave an explicit assurance that the Andhra Bill would be taken up on Friday, the day private members’ Bills are discussed.
The CAMPA Bill has been listed as part of business on Tuesday. It seeks to establish the institutions for managing funds that accrue to the government as compensation for destruction of forests due to industrial or infrastructure projects.
Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said it was ironical that the Congress was raising slogans for a special package for Andhra Pradesh and at the same time blocking the passage of a Bill that will clear over Rs 2,200 crore for the state as its share of compensatory afforestation money.
“The Congress had denied these funds to the states for the ten years it was in government. Now, it is trying to derail efforts of this government too. Every state stands to gain from the passage of this Bill, including those governed by the Congress. The current share of Andhra Pradesh is Rs 2,223 crore. We want to release these funds to the states as early as possible,” Dave told The Indian Express.
Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Jairam Ramesh and Laxman Shantaram Naik had met Dave and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday to thrash out their differences. Both sides had indicated that an agreement had been reached and that the legislation would be passed this week.
But Ramesh on Monday said he would move an amendment, which had been a sticking issue, to the proposed Bill. The
amendment seeks to include a provision saying the land for compensatory afforestation would be selected only after ensuring that no forest-dweller or tribal had staked a claim over it under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. It says a certificate from the gram sabha to this effect must be made mandatory before compensatory afforestation can be undertaken.
“We have tried to address every concern of the Congress party. It has no excuse on CAMPA. That is why it is using the Andhra Pradesh bill as an excuse to derail it. In the process, the welfare of some of the poorest people in this country, and the scheduled castes and tribes, is being sidelined. The bill, when turned into law, has the potential to generate huge employment for these people,” Dave said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Congress was committing a “sin” by blocking the development of dalits, tribals and other weaker sections by creating hurdles in passage of several important bills in the last few sessions.
“It seems they have a well-prepared negative plan,” Naqvi said, adding that the party’s “plan and purpose” seemed to be to block the GST bill as well.