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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Amid Opposition protests, Rajya Sabha clears Inland Vessels Bill

The government said the Bill aims to bring uniformity in the application of law relating to inland waterways and navigation within the country.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 3, 2021 2:19:37 am
Opposition members protest in Rajya Sabha. (Photo: PTI)

Amid persistent sloganeering by the Opposition demanding a discussion into the Pegasus scandal and the withdrawal of the farm laws, The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 was cleared by Rajya Sabha on Monday.

The Bill had earlier been passed by Lok Sabha on July 29.

The government said the Bill aims to bring uniformity in the application of law relating to inland waterways and navigation within the country. Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal said it replaces the “obsolete” act of 1917, and is designed to “encompass trade and transportation by inland vessels throughout the country without any hindrance… The proposed Bill will make the inland waterways sector more attractive to investment resulting in more employment opportunities, more avenues and more economic development in the state”.

However, some members who spoke on the Bill amid the uproar, expressed concern that it encroaches into the powers of state governments.

Arguing that inland waterways transport in India is highly underutilised as compared to developed countries, TRS’s Banda Prakash said, “This Bill is a unified law for the entire country… Instead of having separate rules and regulations framed by the states the entire control is in the hands of the Centre.”

AIADMK’s M Thambidurai, who was Minister of Shipping and Surface Transport in 1998-99 in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, said the Bill intends to take away the powers of the state governments. “That is the only objection. I have no objection with regard to the intention of the Bill that you want uniformity and everything. But, if in the name of uniformity, you are taking away the powers of the state governments, then our federal system will collapse.”

In response, Sonowal said fears that the “Central Government would be infringing upon the rights of States to legislate on state list, intrude into the domain of the state legislature and affect the traditional fishermen and movement of their boat, are completely unfounded”.

YSRCP’s Ayodhya Rami Reddy pointed out that the certificate of registration granted under the proposed law will be deemed to be valid in all the states and the Union Territories and there will be no need to seek separate permission from states.

“We hope that this provision has been enacted with due regard to states’ jurisdiction and in consultation with the line Departments of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Any loss of revenue must also be compensated for the first five years by the Central Government to the respective states,” he said.

The government also introduced the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

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