Updated: April 5, 2010 09:14 IST

All-party meeting on women's Bill today

J. Balaji
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Activists of a pro-women organisation celebrate International Women's Day in New Delhi recently. Photo: AP
Activists of a pro-women organisation celebrate International Women's Day in New Delhi recently. Photo: AP

After the recent ruckus in Rajya Sabha, the government wants to play it safe.

Finance Minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee has convened a meeting of all-party floor leaders in the Lok Sabha on Monday to discuss the Women's Reservation Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9.

The government intends to table the Bill for consideration and approval of the Lok Sabha. If ratified by at least half of the State Legislative Assemblies, the Bill will become effective, and thus the 108th Amendment to the Constitution will be made.

The Bill provides 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies. The Upper House adopted the long-pending Bill with 191 members supporting it and a lone member saying no.

The Lok Sabha is scheduled to resume its Budget session from April 15, after a nearly month-long recess.

The all-party meeting is a sequel to an assurance given by Mr. Mukherjee in the Lok Sabha on March 11 that the government would consult all concerned before bringing the Bill for consideration of the House. As disturbances caused by some Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha are still fresh in everyone's mind, the government wants to play it safe and has decided to hold a free and fair talk with representatives of all the parties.

It is also necessary as Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) had made it clear that they would not allow the passage of the Bill unless the government came out with sub-quota for Other Backward Class women and Muslim women.

Law and Justice Minister M. Veerappa Moily, hinting that the Bill may be tabled in its present form, refused to answer a “hypothetical question” on whether the government would reconsider changes suggested by some Opposition parties. “The Bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha and it is before the Lok Sabha for its consideration. That's it..,” he said.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has already hinted that the Bharatiya Janata Party would attend the meeting with an open mind. She refused to comment on what would her party's stand be if the government tried to dilute the percentage.

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Before calling an all party meeting on the women's bill, the government should have discussed the various provisions of the Bill first with political parties who have objected to these.It should then have discussed the outcome of that discussion with parties which support the bill in the form in which it was passed by the Rajya Sabha to explore possibilities of coming up with a widely acceptable form of the bill. A meeting of all parties with each of them having its own stand on the controversial bill cannot be expected to arrive at a consensus. A consensus can be reached only by iteration which involves rubbing of various conflicting ideas against one another. Common sense tells us that this cannot happen in the proposed all party meeting. If it could, it should have happened in the Rajya Sabha itself.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Apr 5, 2010 at 08:51 IST
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