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RS passes dam Bill; Opp says refer to House panel

🔴 The Opposition claimed that the Bill encroaches into the domain of states and demanded that it be referred to a select committee.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
December 3, 2021 2:23:29 am
Opposition leaders stage a protest in Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (RSTV/PTI Photo)

More than two years after Lok Sabha passed the Dam Safety Bill, the legislation on Thursday sailed through in Rajya Sabha despite strong objections from opposition parties, particularly the Congress, TMC, RJD, DMK and the Left parties.

The Opposition claimed that the Bill encroaches into the domain of states and demanded that it be referred to a select committee.

At least two Opposition MPs had given notices for moving a motion for referring the Bill to a select committee.

Moving the motion, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva said the Bill transgresses into the rights of states. His motion was put to vote but was defeated 80-26.

Other amendments moved by Opposition members were also negated. The Bill, with two official amendments, was passed by a voice vote. One of the amendments relates to the change in year mentioned in the Bill title — from 2019 to 2021.

Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the legislation will create a National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA). “The new system will have power to impose penalties,” he added. A clause has been added to the Bill to impose punishment on the states or people if the norms are not adhered to.

He said the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), envisaged in the Bill, will function as a think-tank at the central level, while the NDSA will monitor the implementation of recommendations made by NCDS. Similar bodies would also be there under the state governments.

The Bill seeks to provide for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for the prevention of dam failure-related disasters and an institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning.

Elaborating on his party’s objection, DMK’s Siva said the control of the proposed NCDS and NDSA comes under the Union government. “Appointing states’ representatives and specialists is also coming under the Central government.
It already comes under the State List. States have these rights. But this Bill takes away the rights of States,” he said.

Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil said the Bill was unconstitutional and may not stand judicial scrutiny. Nadimul Haque of TMC argued that the Bill in its current form has many contentions clauses. He said the Bill does not guarantee any power to states and seeks to “snatch the powers of states”. Manoj Jha of RJD said the Bill “violates the principle of federalism”.

Supporting the Bill, BJP’s K J Alphons said, “This Bill is the ultimate tribute to federalism. Big dams are water bombs. Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal Assemblies have already passed resolutions that the Centre should pass a law (on dam safety).”

Alphons, who comes from Kerala, also made an impassioned plea for decommissioning of the 126-year-old Mullaperiyar dam and construction of a new dam. While YSRCP supported the Bill, another usual fence-sitter AIADMK opposed it. AIADMK’s Navaneethakrishnan said the Bill was “inherently defective” and has “contradictory, impermissible, arbitrary and unfair” clauses.

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