Rajya Sabha blocks mining bill, insists on select panel

11 Mar 2015


The Lok Sabha passed the land acquisition Bill on Tuesday but developments in the Upper House, where a united opposition stalled passage of the mines & minerals bill, seemed to presage trouble for other bills introduced via the ordinance route.

The Opposition, which outnumbers the ruling NDA in the Rajya Sabha, forced the government on Wednesday to refer the mining legislation to a select committee of the house, and reportedly plans a similar course of action in the case of the land acquisition bill, Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill.

Opposition leaders said they would also press for sending these bills to select committees. If this tactic is successful, it would stall the government's plan to call a joint sitting of parliament.

The opposition, instead of creating a ruckus, has cleverly used a perfectly constitutional method to stall the bills. A joint session of parliament can't be called till the select committees submit their reports and the Rajya Sabha takes a final view on them. Till then, the government would have to keep reissuing the ordinances – which is not calculated to enthuse investors.

On Tuesday, when the Lok Sabha passed the controversial land bill, the Congress and some other opposition parties had walked out.

The Congress is clear that it will support no changes in the law made through ordinances that need to be ratified by parliament.

The government needs to get six ordinances, including the Land and Mines ordinances, ratified through bills by both houses in this parliament session, or they will lapse.

Each will clear the Lok Sabha, where the BJP-led National Democratic Front government has a big majority. But without a joint sitting, it is difficult to see how they can be enacted into permanent laws.

It does not help the NDA's cause that the Shiv Sena, its coalition partner in Maharashtra, abstained from voting on Tuesday.

The government has also attempted to reach out to regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK. It made nine amendments to its land bill in an attempt to placate critics who have called the land ordinance "anti-farmer".

The bills that the government wants to push through Parliament immediately are the Land Acquisition Bill, Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, Insurance Laws Amendment Bill, The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2015, Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

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