Rajya Sabha passes Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill

Union Minister Pralhad Joshi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Rajya Sabha passed the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 on Monday despite demands from Opposition that the Bill be sent to a select committee for further scrutiny. The BJP’s ally AIADMK said the Bill takes away the rights of the State government as it will allow the Centre to directly auction mines.

Union Minister for Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi said the amendments will create jobs and the government is proposing to make National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) an autonomous and professional body, which would provide funds for exploration. He said the Bill was supported by many non-BJP-ruled States as it is in the national interest.

“A total of 334 working merchant mines have expired in 2020 and of them, 46 mines were working and were dispatching. Now despite all clearance out of that 46, only 28 have been auctioned despite all clearance given by us and in between there was shortage of iron ore….It would create a level-playing field and end the system of captive and non-captive mines, which was followed only in India and created a lot of problems. The government is also fixing the mechanism to calculate extra royalty into the schedule of the Bill...Without any charges, we have allowed the transfer of mines. We want to bring a transparent system,” the Minister said.

M. Thambidurai (AIADMK) said, “I am not questioning the intention of the Bill. I belong to a regional party. I wish to protect the rights of the State too. How can you auction when States are not consenting? If you want cooperative federalism, you have to give the powers to the State government. You cannot take away their rights,” he said.

Digvijay Singh (Congress) said consent of the gram sabhas should be sought. “People whose land is being taken away, they should be given profit. We brought in a law when 26% profit was given to the people. You have a majority and can get laws passed. 91.3% people in mine-rich Korba are living below ₹5,000 per month, according to SECC data. You are snatching the rights of States through Clause 10 and 11 of the Bill.”

He said when the Bill was first brought in 2015, the government said it will lead to high revenue

“NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar opposed the amendment that you are proposing in Section 10 (a) 2 b. He said it adversely impacts investor’s confidence. A Department of Economic Affairs memorandum dated December 28, 2020 has also warned of potential risks to this amendment that will lead to litigation..Instead of “Modi purana”, listen to what your departments are saying. You are saying 4 lakh hectares will be unlocked. You can fool some people for some time but not all people all the time. Your pre-legislative consultation was from February 9-24. 14,000 people sent suggestions; realities were not incorporated,” he said adding that had the three Farm Bills also been sent to a select committee, then farmers wouldn’t be protesting.

K. Keshava Rao of the Telengana Rashtra Samiti said, “We are also elected governments and are as much responsible as you are...Doing so, you are not only infringing but also violating the powers of the State government. Though it is mining, it is also related to land...It is true we want to exploit mines in an area, but there will be resistance and we [States] have to face that. Sitting thousands of kilometres away, you cannot decide which mine is to be taken..If you are from the Central government, it doesn’t mean you have been dropped from heaven.” Mr. Rao also said the three Farm Bills should have been referred to a select committee.

Jairam Ramesh (Congress) said some sections of the Minerals Bill dilute the power and constitutional obligations of the State.

Fauzia Khan (Nationalist Congress Party) said the bill is going to impact crores of people and has wide repercussions and this is the fourth consecutive amendment to the Bill.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 4:10:42 PM |

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