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Green signal to offshore mining Bill

New Delhi, Dec. 9: The Rajya Sabha today approved the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Bill, which would for the first time allow private parties to take part in the exploration of India’s territorial waters.

The Bill, already approved by the Lok Sabha, was passed in the Upper House despite reservations of several members that private companies could jeopardise India’s security. Members also wanted the Centre to ensure that states would get their fair share of the proceeds from the mineral resources. Jibon Roy of the CPM was most vocal about fears of the nation’s security if foreign companies are allowed to take part in offshore exploration. “They are the modern day dinosaurs who gobble up developing countries,” the MP thundered.

Roy’s proposed amendments were rejected and the Bill was passed after minister of state for coal and mines Ravi Shankar Prasad assured members that the Centre did not have a “hidden agenda”. The minister said it is a “futuristic Bill in nature” and the details had been worked out with as many as 11 ministries concerned over a six-year period.

N.K. Premachandran of the RSP feared the Bill would encroach upon the rights of Kerala by allowing Tamil Nadu and other coastal states to develop mineral resources on their beaches. However, Prasad assured him this was not the aim of the Bill. He turned down Premachandran’s demand that royalty be shared with state governments.

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