All-party meeting on controversial Insurance Bill fails to iron out differences

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 4 2014, 20:19pm hrs
Insurance Bill, Arun JaitleyFinance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu attended the meeting. PTI
An all-party meeting today failed to hammer out a consensus over the controversial Insurance Bill which was scheduled to be taken up in Rajya Sabha.

Leaders agreed to hold a fresh round of consultations in the next two days as the brief meeting in Parliament House remained inconclusive.

"The meeting remained inconclusive. We have agreed to meet again in the next two days to arrive at a consensus on the possible formulation of the legislation," NCP leader Praful Patel, who attended the meeting, told reporters here.

NCP and BJD have decided to support the bill in the form it was cleared by the Union Cabinet recently.

Today's meeting was part of the govenment initiative to take opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha on board on the key bill.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu attended the meeting which took place against the backdrop of nine opposition parties giving a notice to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari for referring the bill to a Select Committee.

NDA does not have a majority in the Upper House and will have to seek the support of other parties to move its first major economic reforms legislation for consideration.

With the opposition demanding that the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill be referred to a Select Committee, the government last night had deferred its plan to move the bill for consideration in Rajya Sabha today.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had yesterday said he and the Finance Minister will talk to leaders of Congress and opposition parties on various aspects of the bill that seeks to raise the FDI cap in the insurance sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

Naidu had appealed to the opposition to cooperate in passing the bill, saying the government is ready to consider any "meaningful suggestions" of the opposition.

"I fervently appeal to Congress and other opposition parties to enable passing the proposed legislation for enabling 49 per cent foreign investment in insurance sector, in this Budget Session of Parliament in the larger national interest.

"Spirit of constructive cooperation on issues of economic development need to be the basis of parliamentary democracy," he had told reporters in Hyderabad.

Naidu had said the bill seeks to provide for 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.

Congress, CPI-M, CPI, SP, BSP, DMK, JD (U), Trinamool Congress and RJD have given a notice to the Rajya Sabha Chairman for referring the bill to a Select Committee.

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said, "This is the same bill which the Congress was introducing. We are in talks with all the major parties. We have to wait for two days."

The opposition, meanwhile, attacked the government over the bill, saying such a move will allow foreign interests to control the "savings" of crores of people.

"It was the Vajpayee government which allowed 26 per cent in FDI. We had opposed it then and also later when the UPA wanted to extend it to 49 per cent.

"The Standing Committee on Finance headed by Yashwant Sinha had also opposed 49 per cent in insurance and now that the BJP is in power, it is supporting the bill," said senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.

He said allowing Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) was a "dangerous" move.

"There are two major players in the Indian insurance market. One is the LIC and second is GIC while others are off-shoots 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 said, adding that the global meltdown started with an American insurance company.

The Samajwadi Party too opposed the move of allowing 49 per cent in the insurance sector.

"SP will not accept the bill in its current form. We do not accept 49 per cent in FDI," said SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, but refused to elaborate.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, "We will support the government on this bill. The country is in need of change and progress. So if FDI comes in a few sectors, there is no harm in it. We will highlight whatever we don't find right, but we will not impede in the process of progress".

Criticising the bill, JD(U) leader Ali Anwar said, "We don't find this bill justified...Our party workers have been protesting against this move...We believe that bringing FDI, foreign companies and money into insurance sector is not right".