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"Attack on federalism" brings DMK, AIADMK together in Rajya Sabha

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 04, 2021
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Both parties question the structure of Dam Safety Bill

The Rajya Sabha witnessed a rare unity of opinions from archrivals DMK and AIADMK on the Dam Safety Bill. Both the parties argued that the Bill is an infringement upon the rights of the States. On issues such the safety of Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala too, both the parties took a similar position. The Bill, however, was passed by the Upper House despite the opposition from both the parties.

Before beginning the debate, DMK's leader in Rajya Sabha Tiruchi Siva questioned the Centre's intentions to bring such a Bill and demanded that it should be sent to a select committee. "Entry 17 of the State List provides for the States to make laws with regard to water supplies, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power subject to Entry 56, which is the Union List. According to Entry 56, the Parliament can make laws on regulation of inter-State rivers and valleys. However, it does not have power to regulate intra-State water, rivers and valleys. Recently, most of the Bills that are being brought are transgressing the rights of the States," he said.

The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety and a National Dam Safety Authority. "The control of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority comes under the Central Government. Appointing States' representatives and specialists is also coming under the Central Government. It already comes under the State List. States have these rights. But this Bill takes away the rights of the States," he said.

AIADMK’s arguments

AIADMK leader A Navaneethakrishnan argued that the Bill is inherently defective. "It is having contradictory, impermissible, arbitrary, unfair clauses," he said. He said of the four entities been contemplated under the Bill such as the National Dam Safety Committee, National Dam Safety Authority, State Dam Safety Organisation and the State Dam Safety Committee, the National Dam Safety Authority is the most powerful and it is an arbitrator. "Its decision is final, binding. The National Dam Safety Authority, in other words, is the Central Government," he said.

Navaneethakrishnan added that the entire Bill does not provide representation to the owner of the dam in the National Committee or the State Dam Organisation. He said the four dams situated in Kerala and owned and maintained by Tamil Nadu, is going to be looked after by the Central Authority. "So, now as per Clause 9(2), if there is any dispute between the State Dam Safety Organisation and the owner of the dam, the Central Authority will decide the dispute and its decision is going to be final one, binding one," he added.

DMK spokesman and MP TKS Elangovan said in the House that there are certain legal issues and the Bill may even go to the court of law. "Why are you not respecting the State Governments? Our worry is that Schedule 7, the State List, is becoming smaller and smaller and most of the rights, right from education, is being taken away by the Union Government. We are also elected by the people. We know how to run the State. People have faith in us and have elected us to rule the State. Ultimately, the powers are being taken away by the Centre which is against the Constitution," he asked.

MP from Kerala V Sivadasan of the CPI(M) too agreed with the DMK and AIADMK on the issue of federalism. But he argued that the State where the dam is located should have freedom to take a decision on the safety of a dam. "The State should have the freedom to assure safety of the dams which are inside the State. We are sure that this Bill will give opportunity to take away the autonomy of the State by the Union executives. I sincerely request the ruling party to make laws suitable for future too," he said.

Sivadasan urged the Centre not to make the law in such a way that it suits the present moment as a ruling party. "Tomorrow, things will be changed. I am saying this because you have followed the same pattern in every other legislation – be it the Labour Codes, or, be it the farm laws. The attack on the federal structure of our nation is also clearly visible in this Bill. The National Committee on Dam Safety has a maximum number of seven representatives of the State Governments, such as Engineer-in-Chief or equivalent by rotation, to be nominated by the Union Government. What is the position about the other State Governments except these seven? What is the guarantee that the States, which are ruled by the Opposition parties, will find their places in the Committee? The number of representatives of the Union Government officials is ten. The number of independent experts in the Bill, proposed to be appointed by the Union Government, is three. This makes the States as minority within the Committee. The minimum number of representatives of the States is not specified. This is even more sinister," Sivadasan argued.

Published on December 04, 2021

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