The West Bengal government has decided to provide 50 per cent reservation for women at all levels of the three-tier panchayat system.

So far, the reservation for women in all categories — general, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes — was one-third of the total seats.

Panchayat Minister Anisur Rahaman told the Assembly on Tuesday that the required amendments to legislation were being made to ensure that a minimum of 50 per cent of the seats were reserved for women in the next panchayat elections, due in 2013.

One-third representation of women in panchayats was provided in the State in 1992. Since then elections to the rural bodies were held four times.

The decision was taken to ensure greater participation of women in the decision-making process, Mr. Rahaman told The Hindu.

“It is a step forward for greater women empowerment in the rural areas where women are becoming more economically self-sufficient with a rise in the number of self-help groups,” he said.