The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 that aims to set up a regulatory body for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams across the country, reported ANI.
During the discussion earlier in the day, Opposition parties demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee for scrutiny, reported the Hindustan Times.
The MPs argued that dams are a state government subject and the Union government cannot make rules for the state. Several MPs belonging to parties such as the Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Congress contended it was the state government that takes care of the safety of dams and maintains them.
After Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat moved the Bill for consideration, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva gave the notice to send it to the select committee, reported PTI. Several other Opposition MPs supported Siva’s notice.
“Most of the Bills that have been brought are transgressing into the powers of the states,” Siva said. “This Bill provides for the constitution of a national committee for dam safety as well as an authority. The control [of the authority] comes under the Centre and the appointment of the state representatives and experts also comes under the Centre.”
Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil described the Bill as unconstitutional, and said that someone can challenge it in the court.
“This Bill does not come under your [Centre’s] jurisdiction,” he said. “It is under the states’ jurisdiction. The provisions of this Bill encroach upon the rights of the states.”
Trinamool Congress MP Nadimul Haque said that the Bill, in its current form, had many contentions clauses. “The current Bill does not guarantee any power to the states,” he said. “It seeks to snatch the powers of the states.”
Haque said the Bill does not mention anything about flow of funds and says that 21 members of the national dam safety authority will be nominated by the Centre.
Another DMK MP TKS Elangovan said that Tamil Nadu has faced many problems in terms of sharing water and has moved the court for it.
“We have certain problems and the Centre did not come to our support,” he said. “You should not be bothered about dams but water, we are the owners of the dam and it is our concern. Do not follow Article 252 but also the consent of all states.”
Article 252 of the Constitution allows the Parliament to make laws on subjects on state lists if two or more states pass a resolution calling for a legislation.
Defending the Bill, Bharatiya Janata Party MP KJ Alphons said that Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal Assemblies have already passed resolutions that the Centre should bring a law on dam safety.
“This Bill is the ultimate tribute to federalism,” he said. “Big dams are water bombs.”
Shekhawat said 90% of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He said when a state releases water, those downstream are adversely affected by it.
“There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams be constituted since the last 40 years,” Shekhawat said. “The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety.”
The BJP also said that the Bill was first introduced by the Congress in 2010.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on August 2, 2019, reported IANS.