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Cabinet approves ordinance on coal and insurance

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NEW DELHI: Seeking to move ahead on crucial reforms, the Cabinet on Wednesday approved the ordinance route for coal and insurance reforms. Frustrated by the opposition in its bid to get parliamentary approval for two crucial items of legislation, the government took up ordinances to raise the overseas investment limit in insurance and facilitate coal mine auctions.

The last day of the winter session was again stalled by opposition parties with the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on Tuesday.

The Upper House was disrupted over the issue of religious conversions and failed to conduct any significant legislative business. The government is keen to send out a strong signal regarding its intent to carry out policy changes by issuing the ordinances, officials said.
To be sure, there are concerns over whether the insurance proposal meets the criterion of needing “immediate action” and also whether investors would be keen on bringing in money on the basis of an ordinance.
On the other hand, the coal ordinance has to be repromulgated in any case. Last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that the government is “extremely determined” to push through with insurance sector reforms and will not allow political obstructionism to get in the way. He had said the coal bill was another important item of legislation that was being similarly held up in the Rajya Sabha.
“It is a bill which has been unanimously passed by the Lok Sabha. All doubts have been cleared. It was not allowed to come on the agenda of Upper House for discussion,” he had said. The government had wanted to get both bills approved during the session.

Earlier this month, cabinet approved the Insurance Amendment Bill after incorporating changes suggested by a parliamentary select committee.

The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill that was moved to replace an ordinance issued earlier was passed by the Lok Sabha in the winter session but it could not be taken up in the Rajya Sabha.
The government promulgated the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014, in October to facilitate coal block auctions after the Supreme Court cancelled 204 coal blocks in September.
The bill provides for the allocation of coal mines and vesting of the right, title and interest in and over land and mine infrastructure, together with mining leases, to successful bidders and allottees through a transparent bidding process.

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