Two crucial bills, forming part of National Democratic Alliance government's reforms agenda, got approval of Parliament within minutes today after a number of non-NDA parties backed the legislations in Rajya Sabha where the ruling coalition is short in numbers.
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 got Parliament's approval in the nick of time as today was the last day of the first half of Budget session and the ordinances on these were to lapse on April 5.
The bills had been passed by Lok Sabha earlier this month but in Rajya Sabha these faced strong opposition and had to be sent to two respective Select Committees. The committees gave their reports on Wednesday, leaving only two days for their passage.
The Mines and Minerals Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha with one amendment as recommended by the Select Committee, necessitating its re-passage by Lok Sabha.
The bill was passed after much controversy and procedural wrangling in the Upper House as several parties, barring Congress, Left and Janata Dal-United supported it. JD-U members walked out before the voting saying they did not want to be part of the procedure.
It was passed with 117 members voting in favour and 69 against it. An amendment moved by P Rajeeve (Communist Party of India-Marxist) was defeated.
The Coal bill was approved by Rajya Sabha after several amendments moved by the Congress and Left were defeated.
The bill was passed with 107 members voting in favour and 62 against in the Upper 245-member House where the ruling BJP-led coalition is in a minority, indicating that some non-NDA parties back the government.
Lok Sabha had already passed the bill on March 4.
The amendment moved by Rajeeve to Mines and Minerals Bill was defeated with parties like Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, Bahusan Samaj Party,
Bharatiya Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, besides allies Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal supporting the government.
Some members contended that the bill could fail the legal test and be struck down by courts as it sought to "impinge" on the rights of states.
The Select Committee to which the bill was referred to by the Rajya Sabha brought in one amendment in it and it was approved by both Houses.
Participating in the debate, members from Opposition parties especially BJD, SP, BSP, TMC, AIADMK and JMM supported the bill but wanted the government to address key issues like labour and infringement of states' rights among others.
Anubhav Mohanty (BJD) rejected the charge that his party was supporting the bill under government pressure. He said he was backing it "under the pressure of providing welfare to tribals."
He said he was doing so as it provides for transparent auction even though he differs on many issues.
His party colleague Bhupinder Singh (BJD) too attacked Digvijay Singh (Bharatiya Janata Party) for taking a dig at him for withdrawing amendments to the Mines and Minerals bill earlier in the day under pressure.
"With regard to Mines and Minerals Amendment bill, we had given two amendments. Government has now accepted to address those issues. There is no question of any pressure," he said.
"Who is pressurising whom? Pressure is there. It is the duty of the opposition to put pressure on the government. In the same manner, it is the duty of government to take care of the interests of people," he added.
Naresh Agarwal (SP) said if his opposed the bill, it could have been seen as coming under the pressure of coal mafias. "However, I have no hesitation in saying the bill was brought in haste," he said.
Agarwal said the interests of workers should be kept in mind and they should be the first to get compensation during the transfer of mines to the new allottee.
Narendra Kumar Kashyap (BSP) also supported the bill but sought a clarification from the minister on whether workers demanding payments would be penalised as laid down in the provisions.