Describing the Women’s Reservation Bill as a “giant step” towards the empowerment of women, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said in the Rajya Sabha that the measure is not anti-minority or anti-Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes.

Mr. Singh also expressed “profound apology” to Chairman Hamid Ansari for disrespect shown to the Chair by members in the House over the past two days.

“On behalf of the Government I owe you a profound apology,” Mr. Singh said to Mr. Ansari while intervening in the debate over the landmark Constitution Amendment Bill that provides for 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

He also stressed the need to “reflect” how to ensure that such incidents do not recur and the House functions smoothly.

Seven members of the House, mostly from SP and RJD were suspended and had to be marshalled out for their unruly behaviour while opposing the Bill.

The Prime Minister maintained that the “near unanimity” between the Government and the opposition reached on the bill is a “living proof that the heart of the Indian democracy is sound and in right place.”

Mr. Singh also thanked leaders of the opposition parties for their support.

Referring to the concerns of members about minorities and OBCs, he said while minorities in general have not got an adequate share of the fruits of development, his government is committed to work sincerely for their uplift through several other measures.

Recognising that women of the country have faced “enormous difficulties” in terms of benefits of economic and social development, Mr. Singh hoped the passing of this “historical and path-breaking legislation” will prove a “giant step forward” for their empowerment and emancipation.

He said all kinds of discrimination faced by them in education, healthcare and other areas have to end if India has to realize its full potential.

Recalling the contributions made by women in nation-building and in freedom struggle, the Prime Minister said the Bill is a “small token of our homage to the sacrifices that our women have made.”

He termed it as a “celebration of womanhood” and a “grateful remembrance” of all great women, who fought for India’s freedom.

Mr. Singh ended his intervention by reciting an Urdu couplet Aghaz ko koi puchchta nahin, Anjam Achcha Ho Adami Se (Nobody asks about the beginning, the end should on a good note).

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