HindustanTimes Sat,01 Nov 2014

Insurance bill stuck, govt says it is open to changes

Saubhadra Chatterji and Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 05, 2014
First Published: 00:40 IST(5/8/2014) | Last Updated: 08:58 IST(5/8/2014)

The government is open to amending the controversial insurance bill to take the Opposition, especially the Congress, on board after an all-party meeting failed to hammer out a consensus over the bill which could not be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

The bill seeking to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in insurance to 49% from 26% is aimed at boosting the slowing economy, but has come under fire from opposition parties over many issues including allowing combined FDI and Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) investment.

Read: Insurance amendment bill test awaits govt in RS

Government sources hinted the FII investment component could be capped, although Congress leader Anand Sharma did not propose any specific amendment at the meeting, but only demanded “a proper discussion”.

“We want to take the Opposition on board to the extent possible. We want the insurance bill to be discussed, debated and passed. We can think about more amendments,” parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said after the meeting with key Opposition leaders.

The government reminded Congress leaders that the bill and its language were drafted by their government. NCP leader Praful Patel said at the meeting, “This is our (UPA’s) bill. How can we oppose it?”

“Congress is not sure if it wants to oppose the bill, support it or block the proposed legislation,” said another minister.

The insurance amendment bill may come up again this week for passage in the Rajya Sabha.

Sources told HT finance minister Arun Jaitley said at the meeting he was ready to go along with the Opposition provided it convinced him.

Some opposition parties want to bill to be referred to a Select Committee, but members of the ruling coalition say it has already been scrutinised by the standing committee and another review will further delay the bill.

“The country needs investment in the insurance sector and more insurance coverage. Currently only 4% of India’s population is covered under life insurance and 5% has health insurance coverage,” Naidu said.

HT Edit: Congress must make way for insurance bill 

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