New Delhi: The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is expected to push forward the long-pending and controversial Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008—which seeks to set apart 33% of legislative seats for women—in the winter session of Parliament beginning on Thursday.
Pending issues: A file photo of the Parliament building in New Delhi. Twenty-eight Bills are ready to be brought to Parliament, with the respective standing committees on these Bills having submitted their reports. Sunil Saxena/Hindustan Times
“The government said it will push for the Bill in this session. No leaders were opposed to the suggestion in today’s meeting,” said a party leader, who attended a meeting on Monday of chief whips and whips of all parties in Parliament. The politician didn’t want to be named.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, which requires a constitutional amendment, will ensure one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha as well as state assemblies. The UPA government introduced the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on 6 May 2008 during its first term in office amid vociferous protests.
Before that, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had brought the Bill to the Lok Sabha twice, in 2002 and 2003.
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Parties such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Samajwadi Party (SP) have been opposing the Bill, demanding the introduction of a quota for other backward classes (OBCs) within the 33% reservation for women. The Bill was referred to the standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice currently headed by Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan. The panel is expected to submit its report in this session.
While this Bill might get a push, senior ministers and officials in the finance ministry give no indication that long due and crucial Bills such as the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill and the Micro Financial Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill (both of which lapsed) will be introduced in the winter session. That’s despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s repeated signals of major financial sector reforms.
Other Bills likely to come up in this session include a new Bill for the creation of an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), which will also have the private sector within its purview, the Workmen’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2009, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (Amendment) Bill, 2009, and the Employees State Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2009.
“MPs (members of Parliament) belonging to mineral-rich states are demanding the enactment of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2008. The government, however, did not respond,” the party leader who did not want to be identified, said.
This Bill aims at allowing transparency in competitive allocation of coal blocks to benefit consuming industries such as power and steel.
Mint had reported on 13 November that the government was likely to push for proposed pieces of legislation such as the Judicial Accountability and Standard Bill, 2009, as well as the Commercial Courts Bill, 2009, in the winter session, in accordance with its agenda for legal reforms.
However, these are just some of the pending Bills likely to come before Parliament.
According to PRS Legislative Research, there are as many as 46 Bills in the legislative queue. Out of these, 36 are pending in the Rajya Sabha from earlier sessions of Parliament and 10 were introduced in the previous session (of which three are with standing committees and the reports are expected by the end of the year).
Twenty-eight Bills are ready to be brought to Parliament, with the respective standing committees on these Bills having submitted their reports. These include the long-pending Seeds Bill, 2004, the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2005, Delhi Rent (Amendment) Bill, 1997, and Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005, among others. There are six pending Bills that have been re-referred to the newly constituted standing committees in the 15th Lok Sabha and whose reports are still awaited, including the crucial Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008.