Insurance Bill logjam continues, more amendments likely

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on August 04, 2014

Voices of dissent CPI (M) leaders Sitaram Yechuri (right) and KNBalagopal (file photo)

All-party meet inconclusive as Opposition seeks ‘more time’ to study the Bill

The Government has bought time to introduce the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2008 in the Rajya Sabha after efforts to arrive at a consensus in the all-party meeting failed on Monday, with the Opposition parties seeking “more time” to study the Bill.

The Government, declining the proposal to form a select committee on the Bill, said the Opposition parties were welcome to move amendments. A senior Minister said all the amendments could be taken up for discussion when the Bill is put to vote in the Rajya Sabha. He said the Opposition parties did not have any specific amendments, but still demanded more time to study the Bill.

The Government does not have the required numbers in the Upper House to see the Bill through and the support extended by Biju Janata Dal and Nationalist Congress Party will not be enough, especially as the Opposition moved more amendments to the Bill on Monday.

After the all-party meeting, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said the Bill can be passed in the winter session. “We have recommended that the substantive issues which have been diluted, along with other issues, should be discussed, examined dispassionately and objectively by the select committee. The Bill can be passed in the winter session and we will ensure its passage.”

Limited right to appeal

The Opposition parties, however, said their objection was not just related to the increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent or the decision to allow FII (foreign institutional investor) route for investment. “The Centre has made more serious changes in the Bill. This Insurance Bill is a stand-alone legislation that curtails all rights of legal remedies to a consumer. The right to appeal is limited. The penal provisions for erring insurance companies have been relaxed. We will move amendments against all such provisions,” said CPI (M) MP KN Balagopal.

CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters after the meeting that the BJP itself had opposed the Bill earlier. “The Standing Committee on Finance headed by Yashwant Sinha had opposed 49 per cent FDI in insurance and now that the BJP is in power, it is supporting the Bill,” he said, adding that allowing the FII route will be dangerous. “There are two major players in the Indian insurance market — LIC and GIC — while others are offshoots of these companies. So, once you allow investments in these companies, you control the other entities. So, when you give them access to insurance sector, you also risk savings of crores of people,” he added.

The Government maintained that the Bill had to be passed in the larger national interest. The Bill will ensure “the much desired capital inflows” into the insurance sector, the Government said. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Bill was the same that the Congress had introduced. “We are in talks with all the major parties. We have to wait for two days,” he said, indicating that the Government was still negotiating with the Opposition groups.

The BJD and the NCP have already pledged their support to the Bill. Sources in the Government say that the BJP floor managers have approached the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party members in the Rajya Sabha.

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Published on August 04, 2014
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