India Lower House passes pension bill
The Statesman/Asia News NetworkThe Pension Bill, which provides for investment of funds in equity market and opens the sector to at least 26 percent FDI was Wednesday passed by India's Lok Sabha (Lower House), with the Congress and the main opposition joining hands.
September 6, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The Lower House passed the bill by voice vote after adopting official amendments and rejecting those moved by the opposition.
The Land Acquisition Bill, meanwhile, moved another step closer to becoming a law with the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) approving the legislation which seeks to provide fair and just compensation to farmers and to those who lose their livelihoods on account of acquisition.
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill (PFRDA), 2011, seeks to give statutory powers to the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, set up in 2003. It also changes the name of the New Pension Scheme to the National Pension Scheme.
Under the scheme, every subscriber will have an individual pension account, which will be portable across job changes. The subscribers will choose fund managers and schemes to manage their pension wealth.
A major point made by many opposition members was that the employees' hard-earned money should not be invested in private funds or the markets as they involved high risk. They also opposed FDI in the pension sector.
The Lower House saw several adjournments before finally taking up the bill.
Trouble arose over the missing coal block allocation files and the recent hike in fuel prices as opposition members shouted slogans and trooped into the Well.
Even as BJP (Indian People's Party) members stormed the Well demanding the prime minister's resignation over the missing files, Speaker Meira Kumar called for the consideration of the bill. Finance Minister P Chidambaram moved the bill amid slogan-shouting.
In the Upper House, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012, which got the Lok Sabha's nod last week, was passed by 131-10 votes with four new official amendments, proposed by the opposition. The bill will go back to the Lok Sabha for approval of the new amendments.
The bill stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 percent for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership projects and 80 percent for acquiring land for private firms. It proposes compensation up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas.
Replying to a six-hour debate, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh sought to address concerns over the “urgency clause” in the bill, saying it is for use only in case of natural calamities and national security. After some of the members raised the issue of federal rights of the states, Ramesh said the states were free to improve upon the new law, even by raising the consent requirement from 80 percent to 100 percent.
The government moved as an official amendment the BJP's suggestions that retrospective and social impact assessment clauses should not be applied for acquisition of land for ongoing irrigation projects.