The much–delayed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s economic reform agenda – that is crucial to kick-start flagging growth in India – has finally moved forward in the face of intense political opposition.
Although the NDA-led government has a majority in the lower house, it does not have the numbers to pass reform bills in the upper house of parliament, where opposition has stalled the passage of insurance, land acquisition, coal, mines and minerals bills. To overcome this obstacle, the government passed ordinances, which have a temporary life span of six weeks before they must be passed in parliament.
Following such an ordinance, on March 12, 2015, the opposition Congress Party relented and supported the passage of the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2015 – which raises the limit for FDI from 26% to 49%. The bill was identical to one that Congress Party tried, unsuccessfully, to pass while it was in power between 2004 and 2014. This important reform was initially approved in July 2014, when it was sent to a select committee, which submitted its report in November. Following fierce opposition in the upper house, NDA passed an ordinance on the bill on December 24, 2014.
The Congress Party's support has not as yet, extended to other reform initiatives, however. A case in point is the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015. The government passed an ordinance on land acquisition on December 31, 2014, which must be passed within six weeks of the reassembly of parliament. The deadline is April 5. As the government does not have enough allies to get this bill passed, a repromulgation of the ordinance is likely.
Ordinances have also been passed for the coal, mining and mineral bills. They were also sent to select committees, which have also submitted their reports in record time by March 18.