27 Aug : In a path-breaking move to empower women at the grassroots level, the government has approved a proposal to increase reservation for them in panchayats to 50 per cent.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to bring a bill to amend Article 243(D) of the Constitution to enhance reservation for women in panchayats at all tiers from the current one-third to at least 50 per cent.
“This is a path-breaking decision,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.She said the Panchayati Raj Ministry is likely to move a bill to amend the constitution in the next session of
Parliament to give effect to the increased quota.The enhanced reservation would be applicable to the total number of seats to be filled by direct elections, the offices of Chairpersons, and the seats and offices of Chairpersons reserved for scheduled castes and tribes.
“Enhancing reservation for women in panchayats will facilitate more women to enter public sphere. This would lead to further empowerment of women and make panchayats more inclusive institutions, improve governance and public service delivery,” Soni said, adding there was no financial implications in operationalising the proposal.
At present, out of the total elected representatives of panchayats numbering approximately 28.1 lakhs, 36.87 per cent are women.
With the proposed constitutional amendment, the number of elected women representatives is expected to rise to more than 14 lakhs.
The amendment would cover all states and union territories except Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, tribal areas of Assam, Tripura and hill areas of Manipur.
President Pratibha Patil, in her address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 4, had said a Constitutional amendment would be brought to provide 50 per cent quota for women in panchayats.
Soni said the proposal to have 50 per cent quota for women in urban local bodies is likely to be taken up separately later.
States like Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already implemented 50 per cent quota for women in the panchayati raj institutions.
While Rajasthan has announced implementation of the proposal from the next panchayat election in 2010, Kerala has declared that it would implement it.