At the death of his consort Sati Devi, Bhagwan Shiva killed Daksha prajapathi and began the celestial dance, or ‘Tandava’ with Sati Devi’s corpse held in his hands. Frightened at the flow of energy that may destroy the entire Cosmos, Bhagwan Vishnu used Sudarshana Chakra and cut Sati Devi’s corpse into pieces. Each of these pieces fell at various parts of our motherland, ‘Akhand Bharat’, now scattered across Bharat, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. While each of these places became ‘Shakthi Sthal’, becoming places where women are worshipped by virtue of our ‘Sanatana Dharma’ on September 19, our Parliament became the centre of another ‘Sakthi Sthal’ upholding our tradition of worshipping the divine famine, the Nari Shakthi. The special session of Parliament held between September 18 and 22 paved the way for the revolutionary passage of ‘Nari Shakti Vantan Adhiniyam’ under the 128th Constitution Amendment Bill 2023. Through this, the Union Government has proved that women’s Empowerment is not limited to words, context-based policies, or symbolic representations; rather, it is a renaissance embedded in the centuries-old cultural ethos of Bharat.
The old Parliament House will henceforth be known as ‘Samvidhan Sadan’. The Old Parliament Building was completed in 1927 to house the Imperial Legislative Council established under the Charter Act of 1853. Between 1921 and 1927, British architects Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker built the Houses of Parliament. After independence, it was also the seat of the Legislative Assembly until January 26, 1950. Many of the debates central to constitution-making took place inside the Old Parliament House. From 1952 to 1974, Parliament used to sit regularly for more than a hundred days every year. During the dark emergency of 1976, the House passed the most number of laws in history, 118. The lowest number of 18 legislations was made during the first UPA era in 2004. This building also bore witness to the 2001 terrorist attack, which was the biggest blow to the territorial integrity of India. This sandstone structure has provided political unification for our country for the past 75 years.
The first session in the new Parliament building began on September 19, Vinayaka Chaturthi. The introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill’ Yatra Naryasthu Poojyathe, Ramanthe Tatra Devataah:’resonated within the walls of the building. This bill demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to the Empowerment of Indian women.
In the first Lok Sabha, only 22 members of the House were women. In the seventeenth Lok Sabha, the percentage had gone up to 14.36per cent. Today, 78 members of the 548-member House are women. Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam once said, ‘Empowerment of women leads to the overall development of a family, society, and nation. When the woman is happy, the family is happy; when the family is happy, the society is happy; when the society is happy, the State is happy; when the State is happy, there is peace in the country, and the country will develop faster’. Undoubtedly, the Women’s Reservation Act is a central pillar of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s broad vision to make India a developed country by 2047.
The Women’s Reservation Act has a history of 27 years in the making. The first efforts in this direction were taken by the H D Deve Gowda Government in September 1996 to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill. There were 13 parties in that coalition Government. After first reading in the Lok Sabha, the bill was left for the Geetha Mukherjee committee. Among those 31 member committees were prominent people like Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharati Sumithra Mahajan, Mamata Banerjee, and Meera Kumar, who were women stalwarts of the Indian political spectrum. Although the committee submitted its report in December 1996, it was strongly opposed by present Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and DMK MP PN Shiva. On May 16, 1997, an attempt was made to present the bill to the Lok Sabha again, but due to Opposition from the joint front, the bill was not passed. The Samajwadi Party’s Sharad Yadav’s misogynist remarks became a big debate that day. Between 1998 and 2004, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, there were constant efforts to get this bill passed. In 1999, when the bill was introduced again during the Vajpayee Government, Parliament witnessed dramatic scenes. Surendra Prasad Yadav, a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, took the bill, tore it up, and threw it away. Although the Vajpayee Government re-introduced the bill on December 23, 1998, despite the Opposition of the Samajwadi Party, the Muslim League, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the President dissolved the Vajpayee Government in 1999 after losing the no-confidence motion by one vote. Since the incumbent Government had to resign as a result of a no-confidence motion, the bill lapsed.
When the Vajpayee Government again came back to power, they tried several times to get the bill passed. It was introduced three times—in 2001, 2002, and 2003—in Parliament again. Although the Government tried hard, consensus on this bill became impossible as many of the allies and prominent Opposition parties turned their backs on the Government. In 2008, incidents similar to those in 1998 were witnessed when UPA tried to introduce the bill. Before Law Minister HR Bharadwaj could introduce the bill, a member of the Samajwadi Party, Abu Azmi, tried to seize the bill. Another Samajwadi Party representative tore up the bill and threw it on the floor of the House. The bill was then introduced and left to a select committee later on. When it came to the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, it was supported by BJP members. Angry and annoyed, Samajwadi Party representatives Nandakishore Yadav and Kamal Akhtar rushed into the chair of the presiding officer, grabbing the microphone. The current Government’s willpower, conviction, and commitment, which has put aside 27 years of waiting in one stroke, is to be highly appreciated.
According to this law, one-third of the seats in the State legislatures, the Delhi Assembly, and the Lok Sabha are reserved for women, and one-third of the seats will be reserved for women belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities. This demonstrates the inclusive agenda of the current Government, which works under the mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’.
Some have argued that it will come into effect only after the delimitation of constituencies after the 2031 census, as figures suggest. Two members belonging to AIMIM vehemently opposed the bill. The Opposition has unleashed the ‘Mandal’ by alleging that the bill doesn’t represent the ambitions of the OBC community and the minorities. However, the bill was passed with an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha with many members such as Smrithi Irani, Sumalatha Ambareesh, Navneeth Kaur, Jaskaur Meena, Anupriya Patel, Aparathitha Sarangi, Supriya Sule and many others giving eloquent speeches on the bill. As the census of 2021 was delayed due to COVID, the Union Government has clarified to the House that the census will commence immediately after the elections to the Lok Sabha in 2024. With the delimitation act in force until 2026, the new delimitation and allotment of constituencies for women will begin immediately after 2026. The BJP is committed to the cause since it was the first party to implement women’s reservation in party posts back in 2007. This bill was passed unanimously in the Rajya Sabha, making it a rare instance in Indian parliamentary history. It can be said that it is as a result of the sincerity and dedication exhibited to his karma mandal that ‘God’s will’ to pass this historical legislation has come to our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi.