Congress supports Women’s Reservation Bill, but wants caste census for SC, ST, OBC quota: Sonia

New Delhi, Sep 20 (UNI) Congress Parliamentary Party chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday supported the Women’s Reservation Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha but called for its immediate implementation and an urgent “caste census” for including quotas for SC, ST and OBC representatives.

Initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha on the document, Sonia Gandhi said, “On behalf of the Congress party, I stand in support of the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023’ (Women’s Reservation Bill)”.

“The Congress demands that this Bill be enforced immediately, and along with that, provisions should be made for reservations for women from SC, ST and OBC communities by holding a caste census”, she said in her first speech in the new Parliament building.

Lauding the role played by Indian women in society, the country’s history including the freedom movement, she said they have been waiting for their political responsibility for 13 years – a reference to a previous version of the Bill that was brought by the Congress-led UPA government. The Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but lapsed as the Lok Sabha did not vote on it amidst stiff opposition from some parties.

The present Bill, passed by the Union Cabinet on Monday and introduced in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday, guarantees 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies for women. However, the reservation Bill will be effective only after a Census and delimitation exercise is conducted post-passage of the Bill.

Gandhi raised concerns about the time of implementation.

“The Congress supports the Bill. But I want to ask a question. The Indian women have been waiting for the last 13 years for their political representation. Now they are being told to wait for some more years. For how many years do they have to wait? I demand immediate implementation of the Bill,” said Gandhi.

She said it was a touching moment for her, and referred to her husband- late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. She recalled how Rajiv Gandhi, “my life partner”, had pushed the first Bill for women’s quota in local bodies. Later, the P V Narasimha Ro government passed it. “But Rajiv Gandhi’s dream has remained unfulfilled. Rajiv Gandhi’s dream would be fulfilled if the Bill gets passed in Parliament”.

The discussion on the Bill began at 11 AM in the Lok Sabha.

Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, who introduced the Bill that requires a constitutional amendment, said the BJP government’s focus is on equality for women and the Bill is key to women’s empowerment.

Speaking on the Bill, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said “The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that this is the time, this is the right time, and this (women’s reservation) Bill has been brought at the right time”.

“Our Prime Minister and our party brought this Bill, and this is bothering the opposition,” he added.

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