Senior MP and Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal set the tone for the debate on the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday by demanding a caste census and separate reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) women within the 33% quota. Mr. Venugopal said the BJP government had a poor record of ensuring safety and security for women, citing the Manipur violence.
He said incidents such as Unnao, Kathua, Manipur, Hathras happened during the BJP regime and added that he was distressed when he saw the video of women being paraded naked in Manipur. “Rahul Gandhi went and met the distraught women of Manipur; our Prime Minister did not utter a single word for 100 days. Yet they talk about women empowerment. What kind of women empowerment is this?,” he asked.
The Congress general secretary said women were facing the brunt of price rise. He said the Centre allocated only ₹156 crore out of the ₹848 crore budget for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. “Shockingly, 80% of the funds were spent on its publicity. In 2023, the budget for Mission Shakti decreased by 1.2%, which includes schemes like Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Women Helpline, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, and others. Why is 30% of the Nirbhaya Fund unused? Provide us with an answer,” he said, adding that an LPG gas cylinder costs ₹1,000 and prices of essential commodities were skyrocketing. “People are struggling everywhere. Women in this country are facing great difficulty due to the rising prices,” he said.
Mr. Venugopal said if the BJP truly supported the OBCs, it should conduct the caste census. “Why are you running away from it? We proudly state that out of our four Chief Ministers, three are from the OBC community,” he said. “The ruling party has been in power since 2014. What hindered them from introducing this Bill earlier? Was the Prime Minister waiting for the new Parliament building to present this Bill? Nearly a decade was lost, so where is the sincerity? Life-changing legislation should come from the hearts of our leaders, not merely from political calculations,” he said.