March 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Women’s Reservation Bill in current session
New Delhi, March 7
The consensus seems to be building around the Election Commission’s proposal to leave it to political parties for giving tickets to women, according to a certain percentage, sources said.
While Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stated at a press conference, after the 90-minute all-party meeting, that the government was going to bring a Constitution Amendment Bill, seeking to ensure 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, sources said leaders, barring a few, were of the view that the issue should be left to the political parties.
The issue figured prominently in Parliament as a majority of women members in the Lok Sabha demanded that the Bill be passed by the House in the current session, but the RJD opposed it in its present form saying that a provision should be inserted in the proposed law to give reservation to women belonging to minorities and backward classes.
Raising the issue during zero hour ahead of International Women’s Day tomorrow, they also drew the attention of the House to the denial of equal rights and atrocities like rape committed on women.
A short debate on women’s rights, allowed by Speaker Manohar Joshi, was initiated by Congress member Margaret Alva but nothing could be heard as the House witnessed a turmoil over developments in Uttar Pradesh.
The issue had its echo in the Rajya Sabha also with Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah spearheading women MPs’ demand for the introduction of the Bill in the current session.
Raising the issue during zero hour, Ms Heptullah sought the protection of Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and urged him to ensure the government brought in the Bill as promised.
Cutting across party lines, all women members joined Ms Heptullah in saying that injustice was being done to women in the country by the Government dragging its feet on the issue since 1996.
Earlier, the meeting, convened by the Prime Minister, saw Mr Vajpayee telling leaders of the Samajwadi Party and the RJD, that if there was no consensus it would have to be passed by majority.
The Prime Minister said the minority had no right to tell the majority to give up its wish and should not create trouble in the endeavour.
To a specific query on whether she was confident of passage of the measure in its current form or as per the Election Commission’s proposal to make it mandatory for political parties to give tickets to 33 per cent women candidates in the current session itself, Ms Swaraj said that was the effort of the government.
Ms Swaraj said Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), sought more time saying that he planned to hold talks with the Congress and Left parties in order to evolve a consensus.
Mr Vajpayee accepted this plea and pointed out that efforts were being made for the past six years to create a consensus and 15 days would not make much of a difference.
The meeting saw Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani making it clear that while efforts were on for a consensuson the Bill in its current form, the government was also ready to consider the Commission’s proposal if there was unanimity on it.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi said there was no need for any more meetings on the issue and the government should make up its mind after hearing the SP leader.
Five parties, including the PMK, the Muslim League, the JD-U, the Samata and the TDP were not present at the meeting which saw the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal favouring the Election Commission’s proposal while the BSP and the AIADMK wanting the Bill in its present form.
The meeting saw RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav advising against making any hasty move while Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav wanted further debate on the percentage.
Earlier, a Parliamentary Committee on the Empowerment of Women has also assailed the Government for its “lackadaisical” attitude in not expeditiously finalising amendments to laws concerning women.
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