Opposition members protest against Dam Safety bill in Lok Sabha

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Members said that there was no legislative competence for the dam safety bill as they emphasised that water is a state subject. Photo: PTI.

Opposition members on Monday (July 29) protested against introduction of a bill on dam safety in Lok Sabha, alleging that the Centre was appropriating powers of states.

Seeking to assure agitated members, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat – who introduced the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 – said that the central government has not done anything to take away control from the states.

Congress members – Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Tarun Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor, and Manish Tewari – as well as BJD leader B Mahtab, Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy, and DMK’s A Raja opposed the bill.

RSP leader NK Premachandran also voiced concerns over the proposed legislation. Members said that there was no legislative competence for the bill as they emphasised that water is a state subject. Mahtab, who is from Odisha, said that the Union was trying to appropriate powers of the states through the bill and urged the government to reconsider the legislation.

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The basic concern is dam safety, he added. MPs from Kerala – Tharoor and Premachandran – voiced concerns about the legislation. Flagging concerns about certain provisions, Tharoor said that the bill does not define who are stakeholders.

Chowdhury, leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, said that the bill was too focused on structural safety and not on operational safety as he called for a detailed discussion. Roy wanted to know why the Centre was “interfering in the realm of states.”

Opposing the bill, he said that it was clearly outside the purview of the central government. Raja demanded that the bill be sent to a Parliamentary committee. Responding to concerns expressed by members, Shekhawat said that a common protocol for dam safety is required and that around 92 per cent of dams in the country have been constructed over inter-state rivers.