Government defers introduction of insurance bill for want of support

The NDA government has deferred its plan to move its first major economic reforms legislation for the consideration of the Rajya Sabha, after the opposition demanded that the Insurance Law (Amendment) Bill 2008 be referred to a Parliament select committee before its introduction in the House on Monday.

Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said he and finance minister Arun Jaitley will talk to leaders of Congress and other opposition parties on various aspects of the bill that seeks to raise foreign investment limit in the Insurance sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

"The government would be happy to discuss with Congress and other parties about this bill. I propose to meet the important opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha tomorrow, along with finance minister Arun Jaitley,'' Naidu said on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, Naidu appealed to the opposition to cooperate in passing the bill, which was listed in the Monday's List of Business of Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing. He said the government was ready to consider any "meaningful" suggestions on the insurance bill.

''I appeal to all opposition parties in the Parliament, particularly the Congress Party to cooperate in passing The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008 that seeks to enable the much desired capital inflows into the Insurance Sector. Penetration of insurance coverage in the country is being adversely impacted on account of inadequate investments," he said.

Naidu said the bill would help provide the much desired capital inflows into the insurance sector since the penetration of insurance coverage in the country is being adversely impacted on account of inadequate investments.

"The insurance companies have been unable to expand their reach. That's why we are proposing this amendment. We need the support of other parties in Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have a majority," he said.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram welcomed the proposal to introduce the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha and said he sincerely hoped the bill would be passed in the current session of Parliament.

However, the Congress has joined other opposition parties such as CPI-M, CPI, SP, BSP, DMK, JD (U), Trinamool Congress and RJD to give a notice to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari for referring the bill to a select committee.

AIADMK, which supports the government on key issues, has also agreed to back the nine parties in the endeavour though it is not a signatory to the notice.

Naidu now hopes to persuade the Congress to support the bill that has been pending for several years now.

"I agree with his comment (Chidambaram) that 'government is a continuing entity and each government should build on what has been accomplished by previous government'," Naidu said.

Meanwhile, all trade unions, including the BJP affiliate Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, in insurance sector will go on a strike on Monday to protest the NDA government's move to raise the FDI cap.