The Lok Sabha passed the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women's Reservation Bill) 2023 during the Special Parliament Session held in the new parliament building on Wednesday. The reservation Bill was introduced by various governments since 1996 and failed to reach a consensus every time. This is not only a historic moment for the Bill, which ensures equal representation of women in the lower house of parliament but it is also the first Bill to be tabled in the new parliament building.
454 members voted in favour of the Bill, while two voted against it.
Despite the majority agreeing on the importance of women's reservation, there was heated debate over two clauses. One was the "delimitation", which raised objections as it would significantly delay the implementation of the Bill. Second was the exclusion of Other Backward Classes (OBC) within the reservation, which included quota for Schedule Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST). Here are the highlights of the day's debate.
Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal: This has nothing to do with politics
Ahead of the debate, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal clearly stated that the Women's Reservation Bill intended to empower women and urged speakers not to politicise the matter.
Meghwal stated, "This has nothing to do with politics."
Do not delay implementation of the Bill: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi led the debate by demanding immediate implementation of the Bill, adding that to wait for delimitation and census, would be a "gross injustice" to Indian women.
The former Congress chief stated, "The immediate implementation of the women's reservation bill by removing all obstacles not only necessary but also possible."
She asserted her support, saying, "I stand here in support of Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam." Adding, "Rajiv Gandhi's dream is only half fulfilled. It will be fulfilled with the passage of this Bill."
What Modi starts, he finishes: BJP's Nishikant Dubey
Rebuffing Congress' attempts to claim credit for the Bill, BJP's Nishikant Dubey stated that Geeta Mukherjee from West Bengal and BJP's Sushma Swaraj "have rallied for women's reservation for a long time."
"What Modi starts, he finishes. The same will occur with the women's quota bill," he added.
Bill was shrouded in secrecy: DMK's Kanimozhi Karunanidhi
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi from the DMK responded to BJP's claims to credit, by stating, "I thought we would pass this bill with unity, but BJP has made it its own thing."
Questioning the Centre on how the Bill was drafted, Kanimozhi said, "They said that they have to involve all stakeholders, political parties and then build a consensus before bringing the Bill. I would like to know what consensus was built. What discussions were held. This Bill was shrouded in secrecy. We did not know what this session was called for..."
Delimitation could mean poor representation of women: TMC's Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar
TMC's Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar raised questions regarding the delimitation process as it would delay the implementation of the Bill. She claimed this move would result in more representation from states with poor population control and poor representation of women. Dastidar also took the opportunity to point out that West Bengal was the only state with a female chief minister.
Delimitation pointless, OBC representation needed: Congress' Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asserted his support for women's reservation, however, he questioned the lack of OBC inclusion in the document.
"I would have liked to see OBC reservation in this Bill. I think it is very important for a large chunk of India's population to have this reservation," he stated.
Rahul Gandhi also questioned the delimitation process and the need for census to implement the process. He said, "Please pass the Bill today, there is no need for census and delimitation. Just hand over the 33 per cent (reservation) to women."
Not supporting the bill will not bring the reservation any faster: Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Speaking on the Bill, the Home Minister stated, "The moment we pass this Bill, 1/3rd of seats in Lok Sabha and all state Assemblies will be reserved for the women of India."
"Not only will the women get the benefit of the schemes, but they will also get the opportunity to frame those schemes once we pass this Bill," he added. Stating that all women-led development will happen through this Bill as they will be able to frame policies and benefit from schemes.
The union minister emphasised that opposing the Bill will not help the cause. He stated, "Not supporting the bill will not bring the reservation any faster." He added he hoped that the Bill would be passed with unanimity.