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Insurance staff strike work against tabling of Bills

Aarti Dhar

Protest amendment to LIC Act, Insurance Laws Bill

NEW DELHI: Lakhs of employees in the insurance sector struck down work on Tuesday to protest against the introduction of two Bills in Parliament to amend the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Act, 1956 and the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill. Work in insurance offices was affected due to the strike.

The LIC Amendment Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha, seeks to increase equity from Rs.5 crore to Rs.100 crore) while the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, tabled in the Rajya Sabha, is aimed at increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) cap to 49 per cent from 26 per cent. It also allows the four State-owned insurance companies to go public and raise funds from the capital markets.

The global financial meltdown has affected the insurance industry in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Major insurance companies are in great difficulty and seeking support from the government to stay afloat. The outlook for the growth of insurance sector world over is negative.

“It is beyond imagination as to how the companies, which are struggling in their own countries, are being allowed to increase their stakes in India,” said A.K. Bhatnagar, Northern Zone Insurance Employees’ Association.

“India cannot totally escape from the impact of this global meltdown. It is agreed that the impact on our financial sector is not that severe simply because the Indian sector continues to be dominated by the public sector,” Mr. Bhatnagar said.

“The LIC (Amendment) Bill is nothing but a farce and a step for its privatisation. Given the LIC’s assets, investment and returns, making it a weak organisation will be an imprudent and retrograde step of the government,” the Association said in a statement.

“The steps have confirmed that the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] government has undiminished faith in neo-liberalism and through these measures it seeks to implement the second generation reforms in the financial sector,” the statement said.

The Northern Zone Insurance Employees’ Association, along with the General Insurance Employees’ Association, organised a march to Parliament, where the employees were addressed by All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary and MP Gurudas Dasgupta and Centre of Indian Trade Unions president M.K. Pandhe. They cautioned the government against FDI describing it as “anti-national,” “anti-people” and “anti-employees.”

They strongly condemned the move claiming that this was not in the national interest and would allow foreign companies to take control over domestic savings. “It is a step to privatise the profit earned by the public sector insurance companies,” they said while seeking the withdrawal of the Bills.

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