What is it?
Officially the The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023 and also called Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, is a bill introduced in the Parliament. It was passed in both houses.
Highlights of the Bill
The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
AIDWA, All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan and and AIPWA said: “The government must ensure the discussion on the bill is held in a democratic manner and the opinion of women’s organisations is taken into consideration.”
CPI-affiliated NFIW said the lack of timeframe is a concern.
Sonia Gandhi said – “it is ours, apna hai”. Later in the debate, she expressed the need for a caste census.
Calling the legislation as ‘trickery’, Yogendra Yadav asserted that implementation of women’s reservation in Indian politics is not expected to occur until the year 2039.
Congress MP KC Venugopal said that the party is happy but also demanded that the major amendments should be made to include OBC reservation. He also expressed his “disappointment” and said that the implementation should have been done for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections but the central government denied it.
Jamaat e Islami Hind in a press statement said: “The Women’s Reservation Bill is a good move though it should have come quite earlier. However, the draft of the Bill in its current form does not address the stark social inequalities in a vast country like India by excluding women from OBCs, and Muslim community.”
In Parliament, Asaduddin Owaisi’s party AIMIM was the only one to have voted against the Bill. Owaisi alleged during the Lok Sabha debate on Wednesday that the Narendra Modi government “only wants an increased representation of the savarna woman”.
Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) Rajya Sabha MP P V Abdul Wahab said his party had certain reservations about the Bill. “We are concerned that there is no OBC reservation, which is extremely important. Muslims are the biggest component of OBCs. While there has been no caste census in the recent past, we are confident in saying that OBCs comprise at least 50 per cent of India’s population, if not more.”
Welfare Party, supports the Bill, though with reservations: “How can we be against the passing of a Bill that ensures increased representation? Of course, it is welcome. But whether the Bill will be implemented, we will have to wait and watch. We believe that there should be 50 per cent reservation and not 33 per cent. And we want the reservation implemented immediately so that it can come into effect for the 2024 elections. Why wait?” SQR Ilyas, National President said.
“I myself being a woman, I have gone through a lot as you have to face a lot of challenges in a male-dominated political scene. I think this is high time that we have women in the decision-making places, whether it is assemblies or Parliament,” PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said.
DMK MP Kanimozhi said: “Under representation and discrimination stare us in the face. Politics of tokenism must now evolve into politics of ideas. So please stop this tokenism and this bill is called Nari Shakti Vandan Bill. Stop saluting us. We do not want to be saluted, we do not want to be put on pedestals. We do not want to be worshiped. We do not want to be called mothers. We don’t want to be sisters, your wives. We want to be respected as equals. Let us get down from the pedestal and walk as equals. We have as much right to this country as you have. This country belongs to us. This Parliament belongs to us and we have a right to be here.”
Reservation of any kind is to ensure the representation of all especially those who have been deprived of their rights in history. This bill will not serve this purpose as it doesn’t have any provision for reservation for OBCs as has been pointed out by many. The very fact that the country needs a bill like this to ensure women’s representation shows the pathetic condition of women’s representation in power and decision making. Our country ranks as low as 140th with regards to women’s representation. So, reservation is very much a need but the details of the present bill will only ensure the representation of women from those communities which have been enjoying the privilege of power and money for centuries. The proposed delay in implementation, the time chosen for the discussion and the lack of reservation within reservation etc. prove the real intention of the government. It isn’t about sharing power with women but about shifting media and public attention on important burning issues that affect the lives of every citizen in the country as well as to ensure that only ‘our’ women get the privilege. Also, it has to be noted that the bill is not to get only 33% women’s representation but to ensure minimum 33% representation. While that itself is a distant dream, political parties shouldn’t take this as an excuse to give tickets to only in reserved seats. Even in general seats only the quality of the candidate, not the gender, should be a hindrance saying you already have reservation seat as has been the case with many such reservations. This shouldn’t lead to back seat driving by giving ticket only to those women who would allow their men to continue with the power in reality and allow the man behind to dictate and become a puppet or rubber stamp for him. Our country has powerful women with real political spirit. They should be acknowledged and brought to parliament for proper representation.
Another concern is that while 1/3rd of SC/ST seats are reserved for women, but there is no mention of sub quota among the 1/3rd of all seats that will be reserved for women. Will this replicate existing hierarchies and lead to the same result that has been feared for decades? Only the future will tell. For now the bill remains an unfinished promise, a poll plank that has been rushed without any clarity on its actual implementation.