Both ministers abroad, Rubber Bill deferred

 
The Bill to amend the 1947 Rubber Act was introduced in the LS on July 28 last and it was to be passed in the House on Thursday. But the government had to defer it, as the Opposition BJP pointed out that neither the Minister of Commerce Anand Sharma, who was to move it, nor his deputy Jyotiraditya Scindia, was present in the House.

A visibly embarrassed Congress reminded its ministers and MPs party president Sonia Gandhi’s recent advice to them on ensuring regular attendance in both the Houses of Parliament.

Sharma is in Seoul to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with South Korea, Scindia has gone to the Indonesian capital Jakarta to inaugurate a ‘Made in India’ exhibition.

Sharma introduced the Rubber (Amendment) Bill 2009 in the LS on July 28 last to remove some of the obsolete provisions of the 62-year-old legislation to further boost growth of the sector and to encourage the small growers. The new Bill aims at creating a Rubber Development Fund and giving fresh impetus to the functioning of the Rubber Board.

The Minister of Commerce was supposed to move the Bill in the LS on Thursday in order to get it passed by the House. But, in his absence, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan moved the Bill. This prompted the BJP’s Deputy Leader in the LS, Sushma Swaraj, to question why none of the ministers concerned was present in the House. The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal said the Bill was for the benefit of small rubber growers. He also pointed out that the government had taken the permission of the deputy Speaker before Chavan had moved the Bill.

“If your government is so keen on the welfare of small rubber growers, why did both the ministers in the Ministry of Commerce go abroad without moving the Bill in the LS?” Swaraj asked. She was supported by other BJP MPs and a ruckus followed. Deputy Speaker Karia Munda had to adjourn the House.

When the LS reassembled, Bansal told the House that the government had decided to defer the Bill to honour the sentiments of the Opposition MPs.

Sources said the Finance Minister and Leader of the LS, Pranab Mukherjee, had asked Bansal to defer the Bill after he had a brief meeting with Swaraj outside the House.
“I am sure both the Minister of Commerce and the Minister of State for Commerce had good reasons for not being present in the House when the Bill was moved. But I am also sure there will be fewer such lapses in future,” said Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Jayanti Natarajan.

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