Kolkata, Jun 16 (PTI) The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday passed a bill, raising the superannuation age of the vice-chancellors (VC) of two state-run agricultural universities from 65 to 70 years.
Altogether 119 TMC MLAs voted in favour of West Bengal Krishi Visyavidyalaya Laws Amendment Bill 2022, while 53 BJP legislators voted against it.
One MLA, ISF's Nawsad Siddiqui, abstained from the exercise.
High drama marked the counting process as the electronic display board showed 120 votes were cast in favour of the bill and 52 against it, with BJP MLAs contesting the tally.
Speaker Biman Banerjee then carried out a headcount of ayes and nays, and concluded that 119 had voted in favour the legislation and 53 opposed it.
As he read out the names of legislators who voted against the bill, the mention of Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and legislator Mihir Goswami who are scheduled to join House proceedings from Friday with their suspension order revoked earlier in the day caused flutter in the House, with the treasury bench accusing the saffron camp MLAs of using unfair means.
The BJP MLAs were quick to deny the allegations.
The speaker pacified both sides and stated that opposition MLAs, occupying seats of the two suspended leaders, might have pressed the button by mistake.
Saffron party legislator Agnimitra Paul later told PTI, "There was no one occupying the seats of Adhikari or Goswami. We stand by our statement that 53 of our MLAs have voted against the bill. The same was confirmed by the honourable speaker."
Earlier in the day, agriculture minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, after tabling the bill in the House, said the superannuation age of VCs was 70 years "in 90 per cent of the agricultural varsities" in the country.
"If a person has the ability to discharge responsibilities after 65 years, why should he be not allowed?" the veteran MLA said.
Critiquing central programmes for farmers as "non-inclusive", the minister said that state-sponsored 'Krishakbandhu scheme' will benefit all share-croppers in Bengal.
Snubbing BJP's comparison of agricultural sectors in Bengal and Punjab, he said that situation in the two states cannot be equated.
Unlike Punjab, 96 per cent of our farm lands are small holding units, he maintained.
He accused the Centre of insufficient fertilizer allocation for Bengal, and asserted that "despite all these, we are marching ahead. In 100 days' work, we are number one in the country."
Newly elected TMC MLA Babul Supriyo said, "Bengal tops the country in paddy growth."
The new bill that raised the retirement age of VCs in Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya and Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya will expedite agricultural research in Bengal, he added.
Notably, in 2019, the Assembly had passed another bill, upping the retirement age to 70 for VCs of state-run universities, under the higher education department.