Parliamentary panel tables report on women’s reservation bill


New Delhi : Holding that reservation of 33 percent seats was a “necessary strategy” to enhance the participation of women in the decision making process, a parliamentary panel on a bill to enable this tabled its report in both houses Thursday amid vociferous protests by several parties.

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice hoped that the measure would be passed into law “and put into action without further delay”.

It said in its report that “it was of unanimous opinion that reservation of seats for women is a valid and necessary strategy to enhance women’s participation in the decision/policy making process”.

“It feels that representation of women in the policy making process is critical to the nation building process,” the committee said, adding that a bill effecting the reservations would be a “crucial affirmative step in the right direction of enhancing the participation of women in the state legislatures and parliament and increasing the role of women in the democratization of the country”.

Lamenting that the “much required” reservation “has not reached 50 percent of the population, namely women”, the committee “strongly” felt that “further time should not be wasted rather the Women’s Reservation Bill should be passed in parliament and put into action without further delay”.

There were noisy protests by Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) members as committee member Shahnawaz Hussain (Bharatiya Janata Party) tabled the report in the Lok Sabha.

However, committee chair Jayanti Natarajan faced only minor protests, more in the nature of a formality, when she tabled the report in the Rajya Sabha.

In a dissenting note, two SP members said they were not opposed to women’s reservations per se but that this should be pegged at 20 percent.

Shailendra Kumar (Lok Sabha) and Virendra Bhatia (Rajya Sabha) also wanted a separate quota for women belonging to the other backward classes and minorities as has been proposed for women belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

The dissenting note means that the SP would oppose the reservations bill when it is tabled in parliament.

Noting that there was “no adequate representation of women in the social, economic and political life of the country even after more than 60 years of independence”, the committee said “meaningful empowerment of women can be achieved only with adequate participation by women in legislative bodies or the parliamentary machinery” as “inadequate” representation of women in these bodies “is a primary factor” behind the general backwardness of women at all levels.

In this context, the committee noted that 33 percent reservation for women in panchayats – since raised to 50 percent – has “had the desired effect on the empowerment of women”.

Commenting on the 15-year period prescribed in the bill for women’s reservations, the committee felt the government “may consider this proposal as and when the need arises”.

“Reservation is certainly needed to enable women to cross the socio-gender hurdles and to give them a level playing ground/equal opportunities as their male counterparts. Once this ‘equalisation’ process is done and ‘adequate’ political representation of women is achieved, then the time prescribed for reservations may be reconsidered,” the committee noted.