Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Mar 20:
The Rajya Sabha today passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Bill, 2015 paving way for mines auction to be conducted in a transparent way with all parties including the BJD from Odisha supporting the government for passage of the Bill barring the Congress and the Left which opposed and JD-U chose to stage a walkout.
The government had brought this Bill as an ordinance and the Lok Sabha has already passed it. Now the Bill will go to the President for his consent which will convert it into an Act.
The Upper House which had witnessed a deadlock yesterday rejected the motion moved by the CPI (M) to send the Bill to a Select Committee passed the Bill through a division with 117 votes in favour and 69 against. Apart from the BJD, the TMC, Samajvadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party voted in favour of the Bill.
The BJD claimed that it supported the Bill in the interest of the state. With the passage of the Bill, all roadblocks have been cleared for auction of mines in the country.
“We had objected since there was no provision in the Bill for funds for development of the areas where mining was to be undertaken. During the visit of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, we had raised this issue following which the government considered our proposal and made an amendment in the Bill providing for such funds which will be highly beneficial for mineral bearing states like ours which will result in more revenue other than the 15% royalty of the mineral extracted. We welcome the Bill”, said Bhatruhari Mahatab, Leader of the BJD parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha.
The Bill envisages spending of a fixed percentage of revenue generated from mining on the development of the local area.
As per its provisions, there will be no renewal of any mining concession, unlike the original act of 1957. Also, the licence will be for 50 years, as against 30 now, after which there will be no renewal but compulsory auction.
The government has already identified 199 mines for auction.
Earlier on Thursday, the Opposition had forced deferment of consideration of the contentious Mines and Minerals Bill in Rajya Sabha till today, arguing that mineral-bearing states had not been consulted.
Congress members even stormed the Well of the House amid demands that the Mines and Minerals Bill be again sent to the Select Committee which already scrutinised the proposed legislation and presented its report to the House only on Wednesday.
Rajya Sabha Select Committees on Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and Coal Mines Bill on Wednesday recommended their approval without any change.
The 19-member panel on the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 that provides for allocating coal mines through auction, referred the Bill to the House for passage without any change. The report also contained five dissenting notes from Digvijay Singh , P Bhattacharya and Rajeev Shukla (all Congress), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and K N Balagopal (CPI-M).
The one on the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, too recommended no change in any of the clauses. However, it wanted the government to consider at a later stage issues like impact of mining activities on environment, rampant illegal mining, lack of proper and scientific mine closure, land acquisition and resettlement and capturing windfall profits for the welfare of local and tribal communities.
“The Committee, in view of limited ambit of amending Bill under its consideration, is of the opinion that these issues are of utmost significance that warrant serious consideration by the government. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry should consider these issues to be incorporated subsequently in the MMDR Act, 1957 at an appropriate stage as well as in the relevant rules/regulations required to be framed there under,” it said.
The break in Opposition unity appears to be a result of the increased revenue that state governments will mop up after the bill is passed. The parties that supported the Mines Bill today had on Tuesday marched along with the Congress and the Left to protest against the government’s other key reform, the land acquisition bill.
The mines bill, like the land bill and coal bill, ratifies an ordinance or temporary executive order that will lapse on April 5. Another key reform, the Insurance Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with the support of the Congress.