Amid protests by Opposition members seeking a debate on price rise, the Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which seeks to extend the application of domestic laws to research stations set up by India in the Antarctica region.
This was the first bill passed this session.
As soon as the House reassembled at 2 pm on Friday following the second adjournment of the day, the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, was taken up for consideration after Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh moved it for consideration.
Replying to the brief debate on the bill, Singh said the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and India became a signatory in 1983.
"The main objective of the treaty was that Antarctica is not used for military activity or there is no other misuse, to ensure the demilitarisation of the area. The other objective was to prevent nations from indulging in mining activity or any other illegal activity," the minister said.
"This is more or less no man's land. No one should use that land for nuclear explosion. Basically its (treaty's) objective was to ensure that those countries that have institutions there, they restrict themselves to research or experiments related to climate and geography," he said.
When this bill is passed, a committee will be formed headed by Earth sciences secretary and representatives from other ministries, he said.
"After the passage of the bill, Indian laws will be applicable in the area occupied by Indian institutions and Indian personnel living in that continent," Singh said.
Participating in the debate, Biju Janata Dal's Bhartruhari Mahtab said the bill aims at promoting Antarctica as a natural reserve that is devoted to science and peace and to ensure that Antarctica does not become the scene of international discord.
Mehtab also hit out at Opposition members protesting and sloganeering as the bill was being discussed, saying the government had deferred the bill for discussion on Thursday so that the Opposition could be present for discussion but they were not listening to what other members have to say on the bill.
The chair, Rajendra Agrawal, urged Opposition members to stop their protests and join the debate on the bill.
Congress's leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Opposition members want to participate in the debate on the bill but the government must heed their call for a discussion on the price rise issue.
He also called on the government to convene a meeting of floor leaders to sort out the logjam that has caused repeated adjournments of the House through the week.
The Bill seeks to extend the application of domestic laws to research stations set up by India in the Antarctica region. India has two active research stations in the Antarctic -- Maitri and Bharti -- where scientists are involved in research.
The bill proposes to prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica without a permit or written authorisation of another party to the Antarctic Treaty, provide for inspection by an officer appointed by the government, and for penalty for contravention of certain provisions of the legislation.
It also seeks to constitute a fund for the welfare of Antarctic research work and protection of the environment of the icy continent.
Soon after the Bill was passed, the House was adjourned for the day to meet again on Monday at 2 pm.