Parliament clears coal & mines Bills
Business Standard, March 21, 2015
Two Bills central to
economic reform - the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill,
2015, & the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation)
Amendment Bill, 2015 - were passed by the Rajya Sabha on Friday,
after prolonged wrangling and a race against time.
The coal Bill
loosens the mining monopoly of state-owned Coal India, while the
mines Bill imparts greater transparency to the sector and
bestows greater financial autonomy to states with
In the Rajya Sabha,
117 members voted for and 69 against the mines Bill. It was
passed with an amendment recommended by a select committee. This
required the Bill to be resent to the Lok Sabha, where it was
passed with a voice vote. The coal Bill was passed without any
amendments, though after several moved by Left parties and
Congress were defeated. While 107 members were in favour of the
coal Bill, 62 voted against.
These Bills have
crossed the legislative twilight zone of ordinances and now
become legislation. If the House had not passed the Bills on
Friday, the government would have had to repromulgate the
ordinances through which the legislative changes were effected,
leading to a loss of face.
The passage of the
two Bills is a significant political victory for the government
in the Rajya Sabha, where it does not have a majority. This was
acknowledged even by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, who observed
with a smile after Opposition members demanded division
(party-wise voting) on several clauses that "there has been some
This followed a huge
effort by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu and
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley through Thursday night, persuading
Opposition members the two Bills would be good for the country.
The focus of
attention were members belonging to non-Congress, non-Left
parties like Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and
Samajwadi Party (SP).
In fact, on
Thursday, BJD opposed the mining Bill, saying it infringed on
the rights of states - a stand earlier supported by Congress and
Trinamool Congress. But on Friday, TMC, BJD and SP supported it.
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