Running against time in its bid to pass the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, the government said on Wednesday it may extend the ongoing first part of the budget session of Parliament, if needed, by two working days.
If either of the bills needs to be amended, the new version will go back to the Lok Sabha for clearance, official sources sources said. They said the government would bring two amendments to the mines bill. [According to a PTI report, the Rajya Sabha select committee on this bill suggested redrafting of one clause to make it mandatory for a mineral prospector to pay a share of royalty to the District Mineral Foundation for local welfare.] The select committee for the coal bill has suggested no modification, though five of its members dissented.
The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which met on Wednesday morning, decided to hold two additional sittings on Monday and Tuesday, if required, to pass the two bills so that the ordinances these would replace don’t require re-promulgation. The first leg of the session is scheduled to conclude on March 20. There cannot be an additional sitting on Saturday, the Gudi Parva festival.
Official sources were optimistic that the bills would be passed by the Rajya Sabha. They said while the Congress and the Left may continue to oppose the bills, the AIADMK, BJD, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party could support them. Unlike the Congress, the Left and the DMK, these parties have not dissented to the reports of the select committees.
Sources in the BJD said the party’s views, conveyed by Naveen Patnaik to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, have been taken into account.
Immediately after Bhupender Yadav, chairman of the select committee on the mines bill, and Anil Madhav Dave, chairman of the select committee on the coal bill, tabled the reports, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad protested that his party was “against the manner in which the two bills are being rushed for passage”.
He said the Congress had wanted the reports to come in the first week of the second part of the budget session. Thereafter, Congress members moved into the well chanting slogans against the government, leading to a 10-minute adjournment by deputy chairman P J Kurien.
The select committee on the mines bill suggested the government consider various issues — impact on environment, illegal mining, land acquisition and profits for local welfare. “These issues are of utmost significance that warrant serious consideration by the government,” the report said, suggesting the ministry consider these issues for incorporation “at an appropriate stage”.
Asked about a possible prorogation of the session, the sources said that would be considered later. At the same time, they conceded that the government did not have “the numbers” to push the land acquisition amendment bill. This means that the ordinance promulgated earlier will require a re-promulgation by April 5.