The Rajya Sabha passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 on Thursday after a four-hour discussion.
This is one of the first legislation to be passed this week as the Upper House has witnessed vociferous protests and disruption from the Opposition over the suspension of 12 members.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said a national policy on the safe management of dams had been pending for 40 years.
Opposition members raised concerns that the Bill encroached on the federal structure as dams and rivers are State subjects. An amendment moved by Tiruchi Siva of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to send the Bill to a select committee was defeated with 80 votes against and 26 votes in favour.
“When a dam breaks, it impacts the entire ecology. The safety of dams is an important issue. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 2 August, 2019. The Bill will ensure that accountability is fixed in case of a lapse. Forty-two dams have broken so far. In 1982, it was decided to prepare a national policy. We sought the advice of the Solicitor General. He said Parliament can make the law. Entry 17 of the State list doesn’t act as an embargo for the Union to make a legislation on this subject,” Mr. Shekhawat said.
Shaktisinh Gohil of the Congress said this legislation was a right of the States. “I know they will say that the Bill first came in 2010, when Congress was in power, but the preamble of the Bill mentioned that it will be applicable only if a two-thirds majority of the State Assembly accepts it. We warned you on farm laws — don’t pass the Bills in a hurry. We asked for division of votes; you had to take back the [farm] Bills eventually...but even after this, you haven’t learnt anything and have come up with this Bill,” Mr. Gohil said.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD said there was “always a temptation to encroach on a State subject but they forget they will not be there [in power] forever”.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member G.V.L. Narasimha Rao sought the Chair’s intervention to expunge the following words used by the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Sanjay Singh: “ Manmaani (arbitrariness), tanashahi (dictatorship) and kaala kanoon (black laws)”. Mr. Rao said these words were unparliamentary and could not be used in “the temple of democracy”. Mr. Singh had used the words to describe the three repealed farm laws.