NEW DELHI: Hours before Parliament breaks for a month-long recess in the Budget session, the Mines and Minerals Bill and the Coal Mines Bill were passed by the Rajya Sabha, with the government managing to swing the support of some opposition parties.
The mines bill, part of key reforms in the government’s economic agenda, seeks to introduce a system of auction for mines that supply minerals like iron ore and bauxite. Parliament’s approval is a thumbs-up for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to kickstart an industry that has languished for years.
117 members of the Upper House voted for the Bill today, 69 voted against. Two abstained. Minutes before passing the Bill, the House voted down a proposal by the Left that it be sent to a Parliamentary committee again for review.
The Coal Bill, which opens the sector for commercial mining and seeks to facilitate the auction of over 200 cancelled coal blocks, was also passed by the Rajya Sabha today. The bill was by division — 107 lawmakers voted for it and 69 against.
The Mines Bill will now be taken up by the Lok Sabha, where the BJP-led government enjoys an overwhelming majority. The government is in abject minority in the Rajya Sabha and needs the help of Opposition parties to pass bills.
The Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party voted on the government’s side. The Janata Dal (United) walked out. The Congress and the Left voted against the Mines Bill.
The break in Opposition unity appears to be a result of the increased revenue that state governments will mop up after the bill is passed. The parties that supported the Mines Bill today had marched on Tuesday along with the Congress and the Left to protest against the government’s other key reform, the land acquisition bill.
Later, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “The Congress was obstructing for the sake of causing obstruction.” Regarding the land bill, he said the council of ministers will take a view on it, “there is no dejection.”
Like the land bill, the mines bill and coal bill ratify an ordinance or temporary executive order that will lapse on April 5. Another key reform, the Insurance Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with the support of the Congress.