Insurance amendment bill test awaits govt in RS

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 04, 2014 10:45 IST

The Modi government will have to match its intent to drive reforms with ample floor management skills in Parliament this week, especially since the insurance amendment bill comes to Rajya Sabha Monday where the NDA is short on numbers. The bill was first introduced in the upper House in 2008.

Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which sprung several last-minute surprises in Lok Sabha to turn the tide in favour of the government during the previous UPA regime, may emerge as crucial players yet again. BJD and AIADMK are set to support the insurance bill.
“We passed our first exam with overwhelming support of the people,” said a confident law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, brushing aside remarks that the insurance bill was the government’s first big test.

BJD says that the proposed amendments provide adequate safeguards for the insurance arena. “This will help in getting more investments to the sector,” said party leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.

The ruling NDA has 61 MPs in Rajya Sabha, which currently has 242 members.

Nine opposition parties, which have sent notices demanding the insurance bill be referred to a select committee, enjoy a total strength of 133 members in the upper House.

The notices also have signatures of SP and BSP representatives. If these party leaders do not get counted in the House when the insurance bill is moved, the motion may collapse entirely.

“SP’s key concerns in Sebi ordinance had been addressed,” said an Opposition leader.

The Sebi law amendment bill will be up for introduction in Lok Sabha on Monday. But it has added safeguards to the capital market regulator’s enhanced power, granted by the UPA regime, to act against ponzi scams. The Sebi ordinance was re-promulgated thrice as the UPA government could not pass the bill due to repeated stalling of Parliament.

“Before anything, the BJP will have to explain why it blocked the passage of all these reforms in labour, insurance and market regulation for the last few years. The standing committee on finance, headed by BJP’s Yashwant Sinha, had actually opposed raising the FDI cap in insurance to 49%,” former Congress minister Manish Tewari told HT.

The labour reforms bills may also get a look-in later in the week. The Union cabinet last week endorsed proposals to amend the apprentices act, the factories act and the labour laws (exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) act. But a large section of the Opposition—including parties supporting the NDA on insurance bill—wants standing committees to review the labour bills.

“The government is running with the hare and hunting with the hound,” Tewari quipped.

To buy more time before taking up the next round of reforms agenda, the government has also agreed to a marathon discussion on encephalitis in Lok Sabha.

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