AAP, Congress raise mining scams to oppose bill to open sector to private players

·4-min read

New Delhi, Mar 22 (PTI) AAP and Congress Rajya Sabha members referred to mining-related irregularities in the past as they opposed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill which seeks to bring more reforms in the mining sector for boosting private investment and creating more jobs.

The NCP called for sending the bill to a select committee as the government brought a fourth amendment that will open up the option for captive mines other than atomic minerals to sell up to 50 per cent of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their objectives.

AAP member Sanjay Singh demanded the government roll back the decisions of 100 per cent disinvestment of Vizag Steel Plant and restarting mining activity in Goa.

'India will not develop by selling the entire nation,' Singh said.

He said that private steel plants were set up due to politics at places where there was no availability of raw material.

Singh said that in 2012 the Justice MB Shah Commission report had come and it was said a scam of Rs 35,000 crore had taken place in illegal mining.

Based on that report, entire 88 mines were closed which led to suffering of three lakh families dependent on them.

'It has been 9 years since operations have not been restored. Many have committed suicide. The Supreme Court directed to hold auction, but the BJP government started renewing lease instead of auction,' Singh alleged.

CPI(M) member Jharna Das Baidya said the bill has provision that if the state government delays the auction, then the central government may take over the action.

'Minerals are permanent assets of this country. We should ensure that they are properly utilised for the benefit of the country and not for the benefit of a few people. The bill should be sent to the select committee,' she said.

Congress member Syed Nasir Hussain alleged a Rs 1-lakh crore mining scam took place in Karnataka in 2015. He said that the current chief minister of Karnataka was arrested in the case based on a Lokayukta report.

'I fail to understand why they keep bringing so many amendments in 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021. I fail to understand is the ministry not capable of bringing amendments at one go and get all the amendments after complete discussion,' Hussain said.

He alleged lobbying behind amendments.

He said that states own the land and they have the right on auction of mines.

RJD member Manoj Jha said that he has been hearing a lot about cooperative federalism and seeing it getting killed in each bill.

'I have not seen a single bill in the last three years which strengthens the foundation of cooperative federalism. I can see 'Gangs of Wasseypur' developing from these 13 reforms. There is no mention of people who live around these resources,' he said, referring to the Hindi film centred on coal mafia.

'These days I understand immediately for whom you are bringing these bills, who will be its beneficiaries and we will join the obituary of the public sector. You will also accept someday,' Jha said.

He said that he gets representation from Vizag Steel Plant every day.

'I have seen that plant. It is a marvel. Those who say nothing has happened in 70 years, they should go once and see plants like Vizag Steel Plant,' Jha said and demanded its revival.

TDP member Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar said that Vizag Steel Plant (VSP) does not have its own captive mines.

'There is a chance of revival of VSP. The iron ore that is being brought by the VSP for about Rs 7,000 per tonne whereas other plants which have captive mines spend only Rs 1,500 per tonne only. This means VSP currently spends 65 per cent of the production cost on raw material alone,' Kumar said.

He said that in 2007 parliamentary committees had recommended that VSP should have its own captive mines. 'Since then the demand is pending,' Kumar said.

NCP Fauzia Khan said that there are innumerable concerns regarding the bill.

'We are of the opinion that this should go to the select committee and be scrutinised thoroughly.... This is the 4th consecutive amendment to this bill. Why is the government indecisive in its approach?' she said.

BJP member Ram Vichar Netam countered the opposition charges and said that several states gave their consent to the bill and it was drafted after wide consultations with associations, various departments and the public.

Netam said that the bill has been brought after removing all discrepancies of past years and this will provide jobs to one crore people in the mining area.

He said that the auction of mines will take place only after consultation with the state government. PTI PRS SMN SMN