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Pension bill: TMC opposes, govt defers

New Delhi: With key UPA constituent Trinamool raising the banner of opposition to the pension reform bill, the government today played safe by deferring the legislation, apparently keeping in view the upcoming Presidential polls.

The Union Cabinet was to take up the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011, which provides for private sector and foreign investment in pension sector, but put it off without any consideration, sources said.

The decision comes in the wake of Trinamool Congress member and Railway Minister Mukul Roy writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday, saying that more discussions were needed on the bill, sources said.

Roy told Singh and Mukherjee that his party`s view on the bill was not articulated as it has no member in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which has considered the legislation. Subsequently, the decision to defer the bill was taken last night.

The bill was listed as third item on the agenda of the Union Cabinet meeting but it was put off without any consideration, sources said. When the turn of the Bill came, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth told the meeting that it was "dropped" and moved on to the fourth item, they said.

Roy was present at today`s Cabinet meeting but did not utter any word on the PFRDA, the sources said. The decision to defer the controversial bill assumes significance as the government would not like to ruffle the feathers of Trinamool Congress ahead of the Presidential elections.

Mukul Roy said Trinamool Congress member Sudip Bandhyopadhyay was earlier a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee but after he was made a Minister, the party had no representative in the panel which considered the bill.

The PFRDA Bill, which has been pending for several years, seeks to open the pension sector to private sector and foreign investment. The proposed legislation was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 24, 2011.

The PFRDA Bill provides for establishment of a statutory authority to undertake promotional, developmental and regulatory functions in respect to pension funds. Interim PFRDA is functioning since 2003 through an executive order.

PFRDA, set up as a regulatory body for pension sector, is yet to get statutory powers as the Bill pertaining to that effect lapsed in Parliament with the expiry of last Lok Sabha in 2009.

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