Lok Sabha passes key insurance, coal bills

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Wednesday managed to get key bills on coal and insurance through the Lok Sabha but will face an uphill battle in the Rajya Sabha, with the option of a joint sitting being its only hope to get the important reform measures enacted into a law. The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015, that proposes to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in insurance to 49% from 26% ; and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015, that aims at making the process of issuing coal mine leases more transparent. The bills must now be passed in the Rajya Sabha—where the NDA is in a minority—before it becomes law. In a signal that the government will face a united opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and the communist parties opposed the bills in the Lok Sabha. After the passage of the insurance laws (amendment) bill in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha said that if the bill is defeated in the Rajya Sabha, it would open an opportunity for the government to convene a joint session and get the bill passed.

The government promulgated an ordinance last year for allowing higher FDI in insurance after opposition parties stalled the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha. But the slew of ordinances, followed by the government’s attempt to withdraw some bills, including the insurance bill, from the Rajya Sabha, had sparked accusations by opposition parties that the government was trying to bypass the legislature.

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