HindustanTimes Sat,20 Dec 2014

Insurance bill select panel starts work on a stormy note

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 05, 2014
First Published: 00:15 IST(5/9/2014) | Last Updated: 00:22 IST(5/9/2014)

Sparks flew between the Opposition and the ruling BJP on Thursday at the first meeting of the selection committee reviewing the Insurance Act amendment bill.

The Trinamool Congress, according to sources, demanded a long list of witnesses to be called before the panel. But the BJP members questioned its necessity as it contained several names that had already appeared before an earlier parliamentary panel on the same legislation.

The Opposition’s list not only contained names of several trade unions, but also the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

Sinha is seen as someone who is not comfortable about the foreign direct investment (FDI) hike in insurance. During the passage of the first Insurance Act amendment bill that allowed 26% FDI, he had assured Rajya Sabha against any further hike.

In fact, the Opposition camp tabled a five-page chart comparing the differences between the proposed bill and Sinha-led parliamentary panel’s recommendations on the legislation.

The current bill aims to hike the FDI cap in insurance to 49%, among other things.

The Opposition parties also forced the panel chairman Chandan Mitra (BJP MP from Rajya Sabha) to reduce the number of meetings from six to just three for this month. Mitra, according to sources, even wondered why the members do not want to hold more meetings.

The Opposition and the ruling side also exchanged barbs over allegations of bulldozing the bill at the earliest opportunity. Significantly, the Samajwadi Party remained absent, signalling perhaps its intention of toeing the BJP’s line in the panel.

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