Govt should not rush through Coal Bill: Anand Sharma –

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill provides for fresh auction of 204 coal blocks de-allocated by the Supreme Court in September and replaces an Ordinance promulgated in October. (Reuters)

Government should not rush through the Coal Bill as it would lead to litigations given the contradictory provisions in it, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said today.

“Why the Coal Bill has to be rushed through without scrutiny… The new Bill requires very close scrutiny. It will lead to litigations across the country. It has conflicting provisions. It is open to legal challenge,” Sharma who is Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said addressing the annual meet of industry body Ficci here.

The statement comes at a time when the passage of the Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha, after the Lok Sabha passed it on December 12, amid opposition parties demands that it be sent to the Parliamentary Select Committee for closer scrutiny.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill provides for fresh auction of 204 coal blocks de-allocated by the Supreme Court in September and replaces an Ordinance promulgated in October.

“What becomes my duty is to have it (Coal Bill) scrutinised as it is talking of national resources. We are of this view that the Rajya Sabha must give it to a select committee which functions in a time-bound manner. Between one session and the next session, the decision is made and the report is submitted. It does not take years like the standing committee,” said Sharma, who is a former Union Minister.

The Congress leader stressed that there was no need for a new Bill as a transparent policy was already there for auction of coal but “a vitiated environment has been created in this country and every decision made is made to look like a wrong decision, a scam”.

He demanded to know who were the beneficiaries of the so called “scam” saying that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken right decisions.

“Where is the need of a new Bill… The auctions can go ahead under the present law,” he said, adding that while on the one hand the Bill retains the provisions of the present law which does not allow private mining, on the other it talks of private mining.

As for the insurance Bill that will be passed, the opposition remains reformist at heart, he said.

Sharma said there was a need for an objective evaluation of the track record of the UPA government and added that the debate today is not about being reformist and obstructionist.

“When we were trying to open the telecom sector, the civil aviation sector there was opposition. We fought and we won. Also opening of FDI in multi brand retail has seen much resistance. It was we who initiated the process of opening up the defence sector. There has been no change in stance on the opening of defence sector from what we proposed. The government is claiming many things which we have already started,” he said.

“If we have a logjam on any policy issue it is not because we are anti-reform. But if the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India is being challenged, it is important to put checks and balances in place,” he added.

Accusing the present government of re-packaging UPA government’s policies and programmes, Sharma said the new government has come in with a lot of euphoria and high expectations.

“It is indeed very attractive to make promises to people and this requires a lot of boldness and courage for any political party to do. We really appreciate that but it also needs to be understood that delivery on these promises is not easy,” he said.

Sharma said that a major concern is that the economy is not really looking up.

“We left a healthy economy. The forex reserves were USD 332 billion when we left and the same haven’t grown since. The current account deficit is higher despite the fall in crude oil prices. The industrial growth is at a three-year low and no new jobs have been created. Also, there has been no new capital formation,” he said.

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