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'Historic' Women's Bill passed in RS

Last updated on: March 09, 2010 20:50 IST

High drama surrounded the passage of the historic Women's Reservation Bill with the process beginning with unprecedented unruly scenes in the Rajya Sabha and culminating with the suspension and forcible eviction of the disruptive members.

The histrionics witnessed in the House on Monday when the bill was moved for consideration continued on Tuesday with the opponents of the proposed legislation disrupting the proceedings.

However, acting tough, the government moved a motion for suspension of seven members -- four from Samajwadi Party, one each from Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janashakti Party and an unattached member.

They defied the action and squatted on the floor of the House for over three hours after their suspension from the Rajya Sabha around noon.

As the Rajya Sabha re-convened at 3 pm after three adjournments and Chairman Hamid Ansari took up the bill for discussion, the suspended members began their protests by shouting slogans.

They were joined other RJD and SP members. When Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley rose to speak, the protests by the seven suspended members -- Veerpal Singh Yadav, Nand Kishore Yadav, Amir Alam Khan and Kamal Akhtar (all SP), Subhash Yadav (RJD), Sabir Ali (LJP), and Ejaz Ali (unattached) -- grew louder.

Repeated requests by Ansari went unheeded and the suspended members were joined by Rajniti Prasad and P C Gupta (both RJD) and Brij Bhushan Tiwari, Ram Gopal Yadav and Ram Narayan Sahu (all SP).

The landmark bill was debated and voted upon a day after it was moved for consideration but could not be taken up as some members created unprecedented pandemonium and even tried to attack the Chairman.

Cracking the whip, the government today moved a motion for suspension of seven such members -- four of SP, one each of RJD and LJP and one unattached.

The motion was immediately passed at around 2 pm, when the House met after two adjournments forced by vociferous opponents of the bill. High drama unfolded as the suspended members squatted on the floor of the House and had to be forcibly evicted after around three hours, which paved the way for debate and eventual passing of the bill.

Rest of the members of SP and RJD walked out of the House in protest against suspension of their colleagues.

At one point of time when the suspended members along with their party colleagues refused to budge and indicated that they would not allow discussion, the Chairman called for voting on the bill without any debate.

However, the move was vociferously resisted by Bharatiya Janata Party and Left parties, which had committed their support for the bill but insisted on discussion on the important Constitutional amendment.

This led to an unusual development as the chairman called for debate even after the voice vote was taken. Intervening in the debate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed 'deep sorrow' over the 'abnormal' developments on Monday and conveyed his 'profound apology' to Ansari for the disrespect shown to the Chair by members in the House.

The Prime Minister described the bill as a 'giant step' towards the empowerment of women and rejected the allegations that the measure was anti-minority or anti-Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe.

Singh appreciated Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and leaders of all other parties which supported the bill and said the 'near unanimity' between the government and the opposition reached on the bill was a 'living proof that the heart of the Indian democracy is sound and in right place.'

Referring to the concerns of members about minorities and OBCs, he said while minorities in general have not got an adequate share of the fruits of development, his government is committed to work sincerely for their uplift through several other measures.

BJP and Left parties unequivocally supported the bill describing it as 'the most progressive' but slammed the government for mishandling the process of 'historic' amendment to the Constitution.

"We are all discharging a historic responsibility in becoming instruments of enacting one of the most progressive legislations in recent Indian history. We are rewriting gender history," Jaitley said.

However, perturbed by unsavoury incidents in the House where seven RJD, SP and an unattached member were suspended and marshalled out, he said, "We also hang our head in shame on some of the most shameful incidents."

Extending 'unstinting and unambiguous' support to the bill, Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist rejected some of the objections raised by parties like RJD and SP. She said the measure would help empower women at all levels.

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