Ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament, Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi has insisted that his party would mount pressure on the government for early passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.
Addressing the All India Mahila Congress-organised “I am Courage” event on Wednesday, Rahul said,”The same way we will give a clear message to the government that it will have to bring women reservation. The Congress party will not give any choice to it. We will fulfill the role of the opposition party in doing so.”
The Women’s Reservation Bill was first introduced in Parliament in 1996 by the H D Deve Gowda government but no government has passed it yet. The current version of the bill, the 108th Amendment, seeks to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in governing bodies at the Centre, State and Local level. For reservation in the Lok Sabha, one-third of all constituencies will be reserved for women on a rotation basis, such that a constituency will be reserved for one general election and not reserved for the following two elections.
The 73rd and 74th Amendments passed in 1993, which introduced panchayats and municipalities in the Constitution,reserve one-third of seats for women in these bodies. The Constitution also provides for reservation of seats in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in proportion to their number in the population. However, the Constitution makes no provision for reserving seats for women in Parliament and the state legislatures.
According to prsindia.org, a similar bill was introduced in 1996, and examined by a Joint Committee on the Constitution (Eighty First Amendment) Bill, 1996 (Chairperson: Smt Geeta Mukherjee). Whereas many of its recommendations have been included in the current Bill, recommendations on reservations for OBCs and in the upper Houses have not been included.
Highlights of the Women’s Reservation Bill
The Constitution (108 Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.
The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
One-third of the total number of seats reserved for SC/ST shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act
Progress in Parliament so far
The Rajya Sabha passed the bill on March 9, 2010. However, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014. The bill has polarised the political class whenever attempts were made to introduce it later. Not only has it faced resistance from the national parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and the Left; but also from regional outfits.
Many leaders across the political spectrum believe that such a law will give an advantage to women who are better educated and come from upper castes. Leaders like RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and former Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav have opposed the bill bitterly and have also demanded that the quantum of reservation must be less than 33.33 per cent and also that the quota must include reservation for women from minorities and OBCs.
However, in September this year, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to introduce the bill passed in the Lok Sabha by taking advantage of the BJP’s majority in the House. In the present Lok Sabha, out of 545 members, only 60 are women, i.e just 1.1 per cent.
Out of these, 69.7 per cent have relatives who are already in politics, reports lokniti.org. However, many in the ruling BJP believe that passage of Women’s Reservation Bill can boost its prospects ahead of the upcoming 2019 General Elections.
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