The Rajya Sabha on Monday, March 22, passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, amid demand by the opposition parties for scrutiny of the bill.
Referring to the irregularities in the mining sector in the past, Rajya Sabha members from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress party opposed the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
According to the government, the new bill seeks to bring more reforms in the mining sector through which private investment will be boosted and more jobs will be created.
After the bill was presented in the upper house of the parliament, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) called for sending it to the select committee as the fourth amendment of the bill suggests that it will open up the option for captive mines to sell up to 50 per cent of their annual mineral production, other than atomic minerals, in the open market after meeting their objectives, reported the news agency PTI.
Demanding to roll back the decisions of 100 per cent disinvestment of Vizag Steel Plant and restarting mining activity in Goa, AAP member, Sanjay Singh said, "India is not going to develop by selling the whole nation. Due to politics, private steel plants were set up at places where raw materials were not available."
"In 2012 the Justice MB Shah Commission report had come and it was said a scam of ₹35,000 crore had taken place in illegal mining. Based on that report, entire 88 mines were closed which led to suffering of three lakh families dependent on them. It has been 9 years since operations have not been restored. Many have committed suicide. The BJP government started renewing lease instead of auction even after the Supreme Court directed to hold the auction," said Singh.
Pointing out a specific provision in the proposed bill, Jharna Das Baidya, a member of CPI(M) said that the bill had a provision that the central government may take over the auction if the state government delays it.
Jharna said, "This country's permanent assets are minerals. It should be ensured by us that minerals are properly utilised for the benefit of the country and not for the benefit of a few people. The bill should be sent to the select committee."
Alleging of a ₹1 Lakh crore mining scam that took place in Karnataka in 2015, Congress member Syed Nasir Hussain said, "Karnataka's current chief minister was arrested in the case based on a Lokayukta report. It is beyond my understanding why the central government keeps bringing so many amendments in 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021. Is the ministry not capable of bringing amendments at one go and get all the amendments after complete discussion, this is what I fail to understand."
On the matter of auction, Hussain said, "The states own the land and they have the right on auction of mines." Hussain also alleged lobbying behind amendments.
Crticising the bill, RJD member Manoj Jha referred to a Hindi film, which was based on coal mafia, and said, "In the last three years, I have not seen a single bill which strengthens the foundation of cooperative federalism. After viewing these 13 reforms, I can see the development of 'Gangs of Wasseypur'. There is no mention of people who live around these resources."
"I immediately understand these days, for whom you are bringing these bills, who will be its beneficiaries and we will join the obituary of the public sector. You will also accept someday. I get representations from Vizag Steel Plant every day. I have seen that plant. It is a marvel. Those who always tell others that nothing has happened in 70 years, they should visit plants like Vizag Steel Plant," said Jha, demanding the revival of the bill.
Giving counters of the opposition charges, BJP member Ram Vichar Neetam said, "After several state's consent, wide consultations with associations, various departments and the public, the Bill was drafted. After removal of past year's discrepancies, the bill has been brought which will provide jobs to one crore people in the mining area."
"The auction of mines will take place only after consultation with the state government," said Neetam.