Glass ceilings in State Cabinets

Just 39 of the 568 Ministers in State govts are women

February 16, 2015 12:29 am | Updated 11:53 am IST - NEW DELHI:

When no women joined Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal in taking the oath of office on Saturday, Delhi joined the ranks of seven other States with no women Ministers. In the rest of the States too, women representation in the Ministries is low, and often restricted to certain portfolios.

With all State Assemblies put together, 360 of the country’s 4,120 MLAs — or nine per cent — are women, The Hindu ’s analysis of data compiled by Bhanupriya Rao, an open data campaigner and Right to Information activist, shows. However, just 39 of the 568 Ministers in State governments, or less than seven per cent, are women. Fewer still are Cabinet Ministers.

Two States and one Union Territory — Nagaland, Mizoram and Puducherry — have no women MLAs. Four additional States — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab — have women MLAs, but no women Ministers. Nearly 12 per cent of Punjab’s Assembly comprises women, while Telangana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have close to 10 per cent women MLAs, yet none of these States have a woman Minister.

“Delhi has a particular problem, which is that it can have only six Ministers apart from the Chief Minister,” a senior AAP member told The Hindu . The party is, however, aware of the criticism that it did not make any of its six women MLAs a Minister. “In a five-year term, Cabinet berths will rotate. There are also many posts for which appointments have to be made,” the AAP member said.

Some States make a special effort to get women into ministerial positions, the data shows. Meghalaya, ruled by the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance, has just four women MLAs, but three of them were made Ministers. In BJP-ruled Goa and Congress-led Kerala, the only woman MLA from the ruling party was given a ministerial berth.

What portfolios do women who are made Ministers get? Just three women have been handed the Home Ministry — BJP’s Anandiben Patel in Gujarat, Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Congress’s Roshan Wajri in Meghalaya. Two of these three women leaders are Chief Ministers of their State. Only two women leaders in the country handle the Finance Ministry — BJP’s Vasundhara Raje, who is also the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and the Congress’s Indira Hridayesh in Uttarakhand.

The Women and Child Development Ministry and Social Welfare are the most common portfolios given to women Ministers.

“Yes, we do have a low number of women legislators, but we have a significant number of women in positions of political power,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.

Criticising the AAP, Shobha Oza, Congress spokesperson and president of the All India Mahila Congress, however, admitted that all parties needed to do better for women’s representation.

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