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Pension prod to Basu

Calcutta, Nov. 11: Pranab Mukherjee today called on Jyoti Basu to seek the CPM’s support on the pension bill so that it can be passed in the winter session of Parliament, beginning November 22.

Sources close to Basu said the foreign minister’s unscheduled afternoon visit to the former chief minister’s residence apparently came under Sonia Gandhi’s instructions.

The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2005, faces stiff resistance from the Left, especially the CPI and the trade unions. Mukherjee requested Basu to rein in the allies.

“During the one-to-one meeting, which lasted 20 minutes, Pranab babu requested Basu to see to it that the pension bill has a smooth passage in Parliament,” said an official who had accompanied Mukherjee to Indira Bhavan. Mukherjee was not available for comment till late tonight.

“Basu told Pranab babu he would speak to the CPI and some trade union leaders so that they are less vocal in their opposition to the bill,” a Basu aide said.

The bill has two key provisions: one, that the management of the pension fund will be handed over to private agencies and two, the money will be invested in the stock market. The Left is opposed to both.

The Centre has indicated willingness to compromise on the subject of private management of the fund, but is not ready to drop the stock market option. The bill was last discussed between the United Progressive Alliance and the Left at their July 22 coordination committee meeting.

CPI Rajya Sabha member Gurudas Dasgupta said over the phone from Delhi that the bill is “full of loopholes”.

“However, we are ready to discuss the matter with Basu. But I want the government to discuss the bill threadbare with the Leftists before it is placed in the Lok Sabha in the winter session.”

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