As Parliament, in a show of unanimity, today, in a daylong debate, discussed the provisions of the Constitution 128th Amendment Bill, named as Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, the writing is clear on the wall. Despite opposition parties’ demand for providing reservation in seats for women belonging to Other Backward Classes, the bill is set to be adopted almost unanimously in Lok Sabha and the same is going to be passed in the Upper House too. The lead was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday when he said. “it seems God has chosen me for the sacred task of empowering women and leveraging their power. I congratulate all mothers, sisters and daughters for this bill, and I assure them that we are committed to ensuring that this bill becomes law soon.”
Questions have been raised about the probability of this law unlikely to be implemented by next year’s Lok Sabha elections because reservation of seats can be implemented only after the publication of the census, followed by a delimitation exercise. The 2021 Census was delayed due to the Covid pandemic. The present bill provides for 33 per cent reservation in seats for women belonging to scheduled castes and tribes. The number of women in Lok Sabha will rise to 181 from 82 currently, if the bill is implemented. Since it is a Constitution Amendment Bill, it will have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both Houses and will have to be ratified by at least 50 per cent of the states.
Out of the 181 reserved seats for women, 28 seats will belong to women for SC and 15 seats will belong to women from ST. Once the delimitation work is over, the number of reserved seats for women may increase. The reservation for women seats will initially be for 15 years, and will be reviewed thereafter. Presently there are only 78 women members in Lok Sabha. In the UP assembly, there are only 48 women in a House of 403, which comes to slightly higher than 10 per cent. If the bill becomes law, the number will go up to 132 in UP. In Bihar, there are presently only 26 women MLAs, but if the bill becomes law, the number will jump to 80. In the West Bengal assembly, there are presently only 40 women in a house of 295, and if the bill becomes law, it will rise to 98.
In Maharashtra, there are presently 23 women in a House of 288, and if the bill becomes law, it will go up to 96. In the Madhya Pradesh assembly, there are presently only 17 women in a House of 230, and this number will go up to 76. In the Delhi assembly, there are presently only eight women MLAs in a House of 70, and if the bill becomes law, it will go up to 24. There is no doubt that if Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, is passed and implemented, it will bring a sea change in politics. The role of women in governance will increase, and there will be a corresponding rise in their strength in society. Already, women across India have welcomed this measure by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Of course, there are leaders in opposition who have said that the bill has been brought by Modi to gain votes from women. My view is: what is the problem? Are political parties not formed to fight elections? Do political parties not work to garner votes? If any party does good work and seeks votes in the name of women's empowerment, what’s wrong in this? Congress claims that it brought the bill for the first time, but Mamata Banerjee says, it was her original idea. Are they not saying this because they want to win the hearts of women voters? Some cynics say women’s reservation will not bring any fundamental change. Already there is 50 per cent women’s reservation in panchayats, women are elected as sarpanch, but their husbands run panchayats and sport name plates on their vehicles with ‘Pati Sarpanch’ written.
All these are now arguments of the past. Times have now changed. If you go through statistics, there are only a handful of panchayats where husbands run the show in the name of their wives. The ground reality is: in most of the panchayats, women sarpanch run the show. They work for the development of their villages. Women have been elected as MPs and MLAs, but there is not a single case in which women legislators have failed to work independently. This is a shining example of women's empowerment. One argument that is being given is that it will take several years for the law to be implemented, given the arduous exercise of conducting a census followed by delimitation.
My view is: that the core issue of women’s reservation cannot be overlooked only because it may take time to implement. Already, Indian women have waited for 27 years. Now, at least the process will begin. And if one goes through Narendra Modi’s nine-year-long record, I can say, he has this knack of finding a faster way to get things done. I think, instead of wasting time on minor issues, let us all celebrate that today is a historic day for women's empowerment in India. A good law is going to be enacted. Let us involve more and more women in making laws. The world will now sit up and take notice, of how Indian women can change the nation’s future. Political parties may well take the stand that suits them, but the women of India do not care. This was seen on the streets on Tuesday when women came out and celebrated when the Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced.
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