A section of leaders in the Hills, belonging to anti-BJP camp, has started uniting the people against the Central Government led by the BJP over two issues mainly Permanent Political Solution (PPS) related to the Hills and adjoining areas.
The passing of the Naari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or the Women’s Reservation Bill 2023 by both Houses during the special session of Parliament has undoubtedly addressed a long-standing demand, from all progressive sections of society cutting across gender identities. The 128th Constitutional amendment proposes the reservation of one-third or 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures for women, and its overwhelming acceptance among parties at a time of intense polarisation is noteworthy. The 2023 Bill seems, on the face of it, to be a reiteration of the 2008 version.
It continues, for example, exempting the reservation of seats in the Rajya Sabha and legislative councils for women as did the Bill introduced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). But this happens at a time when the Rajya Sabha currently has a lower representation of women compared to the Lok Sabha. The 2023 Bill also does not provide a quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC), a point stressed extensively by the Opposition, and one that had become a sticking point earlier as well. The government, on the other hand, highlights the fact that the Bill does include reservation of one-third of seats for women within the existing SC and ST reservation framework. These seats will be allocated on a rotational basis, with a 15-year (extendable) sunset clause.
The preponderance of male elected representatives in the political arena even 75 years after Independence has, in essence, promoted a consensus that without a formal reservation policy in place this situation will continue indefinitely. Power has a strong adhesive quality and no social group ~ gender, caste, or class ~ will let go of it easily. In fact, there has been a mere nine per cent increase in women’s representation since the first Lok Sabha of 1952. At present, women members constitute only 15 per cent of the Lok Sabha. India lags behind countries such as Rwanda (61 per cent), South Africa (43 per cent), and even Bangladesh (21 per cent), according to reports. The debate over women’s reservation in India has been a long and divisive one, of course. Bills proposing seat reservations for women have been discussed in the legislative space a number of times under political dispensations of various hues ~ in 1996, 1998, 1999, and in 2008 when the UPA introduced Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha but lapsed. Political squabbles aside, however, the legislation marks an important step in achieving parity in gender representation in India’s political system. What it does not do, and perhaps is not meant to do, is tackle gender equity. The difference is subtle but critical. Even with the 2023 Women’s Reservation Bill, however, the devil as always will lie in the details of implementation, given that the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies ~ and the decennial census ~ are on the anvil. Most important, of course, is that the quest for parity must not be reduced to an exercise in tokenism; the onus lies on political parties.