Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal moved the Women's Reservation Bill for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha, today amid criticism from opposition parties that the Bill is merely an election tactic and "huge betrayal of hopes of women". While the long-pending Bill was tabled on Tuesday, it is unlikely to come into force for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024 as the reservation will come into effect only after a census and delimitation exercise are completed.
Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi extended support to the Bill on behalf of the party, but questioned the delay in implementation of such a legislation. The senior Congress leader also pressed for a caste census, along with including sub-quota for SCs, STs, and OBCs in the women's quota bill. "The Indian woman has patience like the ocean. She has worked for everyone's betterment like a river...Any delay in implementing women's reservation bill will be gross injustice to Indian women," Gandhi said.
Debate on Women's Reservation Bill
Earlier on Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi laid claim to the idea of Women's Reservation Bill, stating that "it is ours, apna hai" when asked by reporters for a comment. "It is a very touching moment of my life. The first time, the Constitutional Amendment determining women's participation in local bodies was brought by my life partner Rajiv Gandhi," she said today. While the Modi-led BJP government claims credit for clearing the Bill, several governments in the past have raised the matter of representation of women in politics.
Why was this Bill not brought in 2014 when the BJP announced it in its manifesto? -- was the question that speakers from opposition parties raised during the debate today. "The Women's Reservation Bill is a poll promise of the BJP. Yet, many leaders had to urge them to bring this Bill and pass it," said DMK MP Kanimozhi. She questioned the BJP over why the Bill was shrouded in secrecy ahead of the session.
JD(U) MP Rajiv Singh Ranjan though extended support to the Bill on behalf of the party, claimed that it is a panic reaction to the formation of INDIA alliance. "This bill is a 'jumla' ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls," he said.
Meanwhile, countering the Congress, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP brought this (Women's Reservation) bill, and that this is bothering the opposition. "What kind of politics is this? She wants to take the credit for the Bill, but this is not their Bill," the MP said.
Questions on timeline, census, OBC quota
NCP member Supriya Sule attacked the government, asking the agenda behind calling a special parliament session at such urgency if the Bill is not going to be implemented before 2024 Lok Sabha elections. "The two conditions on which the passage of the women's quota depends on are census and delimitation process. However, the dates of both these processes are indeterminate. The passage of such an important bill rests on two indeterminate conditions," Sule said.
Leaders from political parties in South India including BRS, YSRCP, and DMK raised their concerns regarding the delimitation process, which they said would dilute their power further. A population-based delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies has been long opposed by political parties in the South on the grounds that it would give undue advantage to the Northern and Central states in Lok Sabha.
The Bill seeks to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies. One-third of the SC/ST quota will be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, there is no mention in the bill about the reservation for women belonging to Other Backward Castes (OBC).
The Bill was the first to be introduced in the new Parliament building. The government said it will enable greater participation of women in policy-making at the state and national levels and help achieve the goal of making India a developed country by 2047.
However, considering that it is slated to come into effect only after a census and delimitation exercise are completed, the Bill is not likely to come into force atleast until 2029, a move which has drawn immediate criticism from the opposition. The Lok Sabha was adjourned yesterday after the Bill was tabled amid uproar from opposition.