Members of the Insurance Corporation Employees' Union (ICEU), Madurai division, staged a lunch-hour demonstration here on Tuesday demanding that the Central government scrap the LIC and Insurance Law Amendment bills

Answering a call given by the All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) in view of the Parliamentary Winter session commencing on Tuesday, the protestors raised slogans pressing various demands. According to the ICEU's general secretary-Madurai division, N. Suresh Kumar, the LIC Amendment bill was a possible precursor to privatisation as it empowered the government to revoke its sovereign guarantee given to Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India. This was a long standing demand of private insurance companies and would benefit only them and not the people.

Also, the bill empowered the government to raise its capital to Rs. 100 crore from the present Rs. 5 crore. The government could, at a later date, approach the stock markets and sell its shares. Also, the bill mandated the LIC to reduce bonus given to policy holders from the present 95 per cent of the company's surplus to 90 per cent.

Even though a Parliamentary Standing Committee had recommended against revoking the sovereign guarantee or reducing the bonus given to policy holders, the Centre seems intent on tabling the Bill in this session and proceeding with the proposed measures, he said.

The Insurance Law Amendment Bill would allow increasing the cap on foreign direct investment in insurance sector to 49 per cent from 26 per cent. Also, it would allow public sector general insurance companies to approach the stock markets to raise capital, which could also lead to possible privatisation, he said.

Mr. Suresh Kumar said that if the government failed to listen to the unions, they would have no choice but to escalate their protests.