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Lok Sabha passes Pension Bill amid protests

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Lok Sabha passes Pension Bill amid protests
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New Delhi: In a relief to the UPA government, Lok Sabha passed the Pension Bill on Wednesday despite vociferous protests over missing coal files and petrol price hike casted a shadow over the debate.

The government had been pressing hard for its passage given just two days remain for the Monsoon Session to conclude.

Even as BJP members stormed the Well demanding the Prime Minister's resignation over missing coal block allocation files, Speaker Meira Kumar took up the consideration of the controversial measure.

Participating in the debate, Shailendra Kumar, whose Samajwadi Party is a key outside supporter, opposed the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011, which provides for establishment of an authority to promote old age income security by developing pension funds, among other things.

As Kumar opposed the measure saying there was no provision to provide assured returns to the employees, Ministers Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal approached SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav apparently to seek his party's backing to the bill, which the Left parties staunchly opposed.

The SP member, along with those from 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.

Sougata Roy (TMC) wanted the Chair to ensure that the bill, which would affect lives of millions of people, should not be passed in a hurry and in din over missing coal ministry files and hike in petroleum prices.

Interestingly, Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) called back the protesting Left members from the Well as Roy was speaking to oppose the bill.

TKS Elangovan (DMK) also used the opportunity to draw government's attention to the agitation planned by bank employees' unions on pension and other issues and said his party opposed the measure because the hard-earned savings of the people would be invested in private securities.

Sanjay Nirupam (Cong) supported the measure saying it would go a long way to help the aged in their post-retirement life.

Earlier, Finance Minister P Chidambaram moved the bill for consideration amidst slogan-shouting.

While BJP members were shouting 'PM isteefa do' (PM resign) and 'koyle ki dalali hai, poori Congress kaali hai (Congress is blacked by the coal scam), their Left counterparts shouted 'rollback petrol price hike'.

The Speaker's appeals to those in the Well to return to their seats went unheeded. "Do not insult the Chair. We are trying to run the House, you should cooperate," she pleaded.

At one point, BJP member Yashwant Sinha was heard saying "this is no way to run the House, I am sorry to say. This is an important bill which can't be passed like this (in din)." He was supported vociferously by his party colleagues.

With uproar continuing, the Speaker had adjourned the House till 2pm. When the House reconvened, it was adjourned again till 2:30 amid similar scenes.

The disruptions continued despite the Prime Minister's last ditch effort to resolve the deadlock over the missing files. He had invited top BJP leaders for dinner last evening before he left for the G-20 Summit on Wednesday.

The pension bill has been pending ever since it was introduced in 2011. Besides promoting old age income security by establishing, developing and regulating pension funds, the bill seeks to "protect the interest of subscribers to schemes of pension funds" and related matters.

PTI

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