Women Reservation Bill brought in RS amid protest, sent to panel

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New Delhi, May 6 (UNI) The long struggle of women activists bore fruit today with the controversial Women's Reservation Bill being finally introduced in the Rajya Sabha and referred the Standing Committee.

The Union Cabinet had cleared the Bill, granting 33 per cent reservation to women, during a meeting last night. It was introduced in the Rajya Sabha despite stiff opposition from Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal (United) leaders who tried to physically stall the introduction of the Bill by Law Minister H R Bharadwaj. The bill was brought before the Rajya Sabha so that it did not lapse as had happened earlier and also due to the fact that the Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die yesterday.

The Bill was brought for Parliamentary approval for the first time in September 1996. Since then there were several failed attempts to evolve political consensus on the measure that provides for reservation of one-third of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The Bill was introduced following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance to a delegation of women rights activists who met him on the International Women's Day. The group, including Krishna Tirath, Mohini Giri and Nafisa Ali, met Vice-President Hamid Ansari and the Prime Minister and gave them a charter of demands. Dr Singh had assured them that the Bill will be introduced this session.

The Bill has been hanging fire since 1996 due to opposition from certain parties who want special quota-in-quota for women from backward communities.

In parliamentary debates this week, Left allies of the government and opposition party Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had asserted that they supported the Women's Reservation Bill.

The Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996 by the H D Deve Gowda government.

At that time, it was referred to the Joint Committee of Parliament.

But the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 11th Lok Sabha.

Another attempt was made by introduction of Constitution of (84th Amendment) Bill, 1998 in the Lok Sabba on December 1998 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. It lapsed again with the dissolution of the 12th Lok Sabha.

Another attempt was made on December 23, 1999 with the introduction of the Bill in the Lower House. But this bill also could not be pursued due to lack of political consensus.

So now the Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha for the first time with the consequence that it will not lapse.


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