The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed a Bill to introduce private investment in the mining sector, even as the Opposition warned the Centre that it could face similar criticism as it did for the three new farm laws, PTI reported. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha last week.

Opposition leaders also demanded that a select committee scrutinise the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021.

Minister of Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi told the House that the Bill will generate employment opportunities in the mining sector, and raise its share in the country’s Gross Domestic Product. “Currently, the contribution of the mining sector, putting all together, is around 1.75% and we want to take it to 2.5% which is our commitment,” he said, PTI reported.

Joshi also informed the Rajya Sabha that the Centre planned to set up an autonomous body called the National Mineral Exploration Trust for mineral exploration. “We want to bring private players into this because we have rich minerals like coal, gold, silver, but we are not being able to bring it out,” he said. That’s why we are bringing these changes and trying to redefine exploration,” he added.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that 11 parties wanted the bill to go to a select committee. “But the government is unlikely to agree and respect this consensus,” he was quoted as saying by PTI. “By passing this bill, today we are going against the general consensus.”

Ramesh’s colleague Digvijaya Singh said: “Don’t treat this bill as you had done with the farm laws.”

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Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP K Keshava Rao also asked the central government not to “repeat the mistake” it made with agricultural laws, according to PTI.

Meanwhile YSR Congress leader V Vijayasai Reddy called the bill “anti-public sector” and added that it should not be passed in its present form.

Joshi responded to the demands for scrutiny of the bill, saying that the government had held wide-ranging consultations on it. “The bill was circulated to states and 10,500 comments were received,” he said, according to PTI. “As many as 10 associations and six NGOs had recorded their comments.”

The Union minister emphasised on the need for changes in the mining sector, saying that India was importing coal despite being the world’s fourth-largest producer. A 143 mines have been gives to states,” he told the House. Since 2015, these mine are with them. Neither those were allotted nor auctioned. Who suffered the loss?”

Meanwhile, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP M Thambidurai, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally, expressed concern that the Bill will allow the Centre to auction mines directly, thus taking away rights from the states, The Hindu reported. “I assure you that not a single iota of power of state will be snatched or taken away by this bill,” Joshi said in response, according to PTI.