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Lok Sabha passes bill to create Uttaranchal

By Purnima S. Tripathi
The Hindu, New Delhi, Aug. 1

After a stormy start, and despite the controversy about Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar, the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2000, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday by a voice vote without a hitch, paving the way for Uttaranchal state to be carved out of Uttar Pradesh.

Two allies of the BJP, the Loktantrik Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal, are opposing the inclusion of Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar respectively in the proposed state of Uttaranchal.

The bill was supported by the main Opposition Congress party besides the Bahujan Samaj Party, the CPI and the other allies. The Samajwadi Party, RJD, CPI(M), AIADMK and Akali Dal (Mann) opposed the bill. The Mann group staged a walkout in protest against the bill. A section of the Congress, mainly comprising Sikh members, also registered their protest.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was not present in the House, had sent his good wishes and support for the people of Uttaranchal. Reading out his message, Union home minister L.K. Advani said the Prime Minister wanted to be present on the occasion but could not do so due to prior engagements. Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi, who arrived late, sat quietly through the debate till voting was over.

The six-hour debate got off to a stormy start as the Speaker called Mr Advani’s name to table the bill for discussion. The SP, RJD, Congress and CPI(M) members immediately sprang to their feet demanding that the George Fernandes committee report, which was constituted to look into the Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar issues, be tabled first.

The demand was, however, rejected by parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, who said that the “so called” Fernandes committee was not constituted by the government of India, it was an “internal committee of the NDA” and its report was a “domestic one.”

This, however, fuelled more protest from the shouting Opposition members, who demanded that the committee report be disclosed, all the more so since Mr Fernandes himself was present in the House.

“Has the honourable minister lost his power of speech,” the angry members demanded. Opposition members, including those of the Samajwadi Party, RJD, United Akali Dal, and Congress MPs from Punjab at one point even stormed into the Well of the House, saying the House had a right to know about the report before starting a discussion on the bill. They accused the government of playing with the people’s aspirations because they did not want to be included in Uttaranchal.

The members gave in only when the defence minister rose to give his statement. He said he had visited the two areas and met the people’s representatives. who expressed themselves in favour of inclusion in Uttaranchal. Mr Fernandes’ statement came soon after Mr Advani moved the bill. Mr Fernandes said he had recommended that Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar should be part of Uttaranchal.

Replying to the six-hour and, at times, acrimonious debate, the home minister announced that the two districts in question, Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar, will indeed be a part of the new state. He said the government will take measures to ensure that the new state was economically viable.

Replying to the Opposition charge that the creation of new states will encourage fissiparous tendencies all across India, he said the Centre will consider only those demands which have been passed by the state assemblies. In an obvious reference to the J&K resolution, he said this, however, did not mean that the Centre will accept all demands passed by the state assemblies.

Opposing the inclusion of Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttaranchal, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad of the RJD, and Mr Basudev Acharya of the CPI(M) blamed the NDA government for neglecting the area which is to become a new state.

They said this was a politically motivated step on the BJP’s part for the sake of votes. They demanded that a new states’ reorganisation commission be set up to look into demands for smaller states.

Mr Raghuvansh Prasad, fast earning the acronym of “proxy-Laloo” for his propensity to drown the House in laughter, described the NDA government as a “car without a brake” which was blindly rushing through with the new states.

“I am warning you, you will either bump into the hills or fall into the khud,” he cautioned the ruling benches. The proposed new state will comprise 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and will have a populaiton of over 75 lakhs. It will have 70 Assembly seats and five Lok sabha seats.

The first Assembly resolution recommending the formation of the new state was passed in 1994 by the then Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP-BSP government. Subsequently, three more governments got the bill adopted by the assemblies and forwarded it to the Centre.