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Cabinet nod to Women's Reservation Bill
May 05, 2008 23:35 IST
Despite sharp divisions in the ruling United Progressive Alliance and opposition National Democratic Alliance about it, the Centre on Monday night approved the much-delayed Women's Reservation Bill, for introduction in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The bill, seeking to earmark 33 per cent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies, was cleared by the Union Cabinet at a time when the Congress-led coalition is entering the last year of its five-year term.
Left parties, key outside supporters of the coalition, have been pressurising the government to go in for the measure, despite a division in the ruling alliance.
The measure has remained a mirage for some 15 years, as a sizable political section is demanding a quota within quota for women belonging to backward, minority and scheduled castes.
At least two attempts to introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha over the last 12 years have seen unruly scenes, including snatching of the copy of the bill, when an attempt was being made to introduce it by the then Prime Minister I K Gujral.
NDA's move to introduce it through its Law Minister Ram Jethmalani met similar fate when the copy of the bill was also snatched from him.
Railways Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad put forth his suggestions on having quota for women belonging to backward, minority and scheduled castes, within the 33 per cent reservation.
Though Prasad is a Union Minister and his party a key ally, the government cannot bank on it with RJD leaders not in favour of the bill.
Prasad said his party was never against the introduction of the long-delayed measure, but favoured quotas for women from deprived sections of the society and those belonging to religious minorities, in the draft legislation.
Suggesting alternatives, Prasad said his party would also back the measure if there was an agreement over leaving the implementation of the women's reservation to political parties or a consensus was reached over increasing the number of seats in legislatures.
Last year, the RJD had witnessed a virtual revolt when Prasad had agreed to the introduction of the measure at a meeting of the UPA leaders, but was forced to beat a hasty retreat the very next day.
Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh's statement that when it comes to women's reservation, the Yadavs of all hue -- Lalu Prasad of UPA, Mulayam Singh Yadav of United National Progressive Alliance and Sharad Yadav of NDA -- are the same, aptly sums up the opposition to the measure in its present form.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] had assured women's groups on Women's Day earlier this year that he would make efforts during the inter-session to arrive at consensus, to honour the commitment made in the National Common Minimum Programme.
However, there were no consultations and suddenly the buzz about government plans to bring forward the bill gained momentum last week, when women Congress leaders led by Mohsina Kidwai, met the Prime Minister.