M A I N   N E W S

Congress, BJP join hands to pass pension Bill
Sanjeev Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, September 4
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the long-pending Pension Bill that seeks to promote old age income security, with the government saying it is based on the principle that "you save while you earn".

The key economic legislation, which assures minimum returns to subscribers, is the third major Bill, after food security and land acquisition, to go through in Lok Sabha in the last few days. The Pension Bill was passed after it was supported by the principal opposition, the BJP, on the grounds that the country was staring at an economic crisis and also as it was first conceived during the NDA regime.

The debate on the Pension Bill was interrupted by vociferous protests over missing coal files and increase in petrol prices. In the afternoon session, the Bill was taken up after the government agreed to a discussion on the missing files.

In his statement in Parliament on the economic situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stressed that the easy reforms were over and only the difficult ones remain such as the Pension Bill which require political consensus.

The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill (PFRDA), 2011, was passed with some amendments.

It was earlier introduced in March, 2011, to provide for a statutory regulatory body -- the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) -- under the provisions of the Bill. The legislation seeks to empower PFRDA to regulate the New Pension System (NPS).

The Bill aims to promote old age income security by establishing pension funds and protecting the interests of subscribers to pension funds.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said some key amendments have been incorporated in the Bill based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance. These include allowing a subscriber seeking minimum assured returns to opt for investing his funds. Withdrawals will be permitted from the individual pension account subject to the conditions, such as purpose, frequency and limits.

The foreign investment in the pension sector will be 26 per cent or such percentage as may be approved for the insurance sector. Also, it has been specified that at least one of the pension fund managers shall be from the public sector.

The Samajwadi Party, along with Trinamool Congress, DMK and the Left parties, opposed the measure on several counts, especially on putting the "social security moneys" in the volatile stock market and allowing FDI to manage these "hard-earned" funds.

The Bill would make the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority a statutory authority. Presently, it has non-statutory status.

The NPS is based on the principle that “you save while you earn”, especially for retirement, and is mainly for those who have a regular income.

the fineprint

  • A key economic reforms legislation, the Pension Bill, provides for investment of funds in equity market and opens the sector to 26% FDI
  • The Bill provides subscribers a wide choice to invest their funds including for assured returns by opting for government bonds as well as in other funds depending on their capacity to take risk
  • The passage of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011 came on a day when it appeared that the House could be stalled over the coalgate issue but negotiations with BJP leadership saved the day for the treasury benches.




Rajya Sabha passes land Bill
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 4
The Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to give the farmers their right to compensation on their land being acquired by the government, was passed tonight by the Rajya Sabha after a debate lasting five hours with amendments.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012 aims to replace a law enacted by the British in 1894.

The amended Bill will again go to the Lok Sabha for consideration of changes approved by the Upper House. The new amendments include dilution of retrospective clause with regard to acquisition of land for irrigation projects.

Twenty-six members of the Rajya Sabha spoke on the Bill. There were 131 votes for it and 10 votes against.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh assured the House that the Bill is nothing like the archaic one passed in 1984. He also said that the Bill wasn't being passed with an eye on polls. "Farmer's interest is the top priority of this Bill, and it is not being passed with an eye on elections," he said.

The Bill that aims to provide fair compensation to those whose land is taken over, bring transparency to the process and details measures for rehabilitation of those displaced.

The Bill also introduces a number of unprecedented and far reaching safeguards to protect an individual's right to his or her personal property from arbitrary and indiscriminate acquisition.

The new Bill proposes that farmers and landowners be paid up to four times the market value for land acquired in rural areas, and two times the market value in urban areas.

"The Bill stipulates mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent for acquiring land for Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private companies. The legislation, just like the Food Security Bill, is being viewed as a mega vote-getter in forthcoming elections.





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