People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 38

September 20, 2009



Team Submits Memo to President


ON September 16, a delegation of nine organisations of women met the president of India, Smt Pratibha Devi Patil, demanding the fulfilment of the promise to enact a bill in parliament for reservation of 33 per cent of the seats in parliament and state legislatures for women. The bill has been stalled over the past 13 years on the plea of creating a �consensus.� The president informed the delegation that the government is seeking to create a consensus on the bill, but she could not offer any definite timeframe for its passage. So the organizations have decided to intensify their struggle for the passage of this bill.

The text of their memorandum to the president is reproduced below.

Respected Madam,    

A hundred days have passed since the UPA government came to power in June 2009. In the joint session of parliament addressed by your honourable self on June 4, 2009, a clear assurance was given that the UPA government would initiate steps within the next hundred days for an early passage of the women�s reservation bill, providing for one third reservation to women in state legislatures and in parliament. The accompanying assurance that reservation for women in panchayats would be increased to 50 per cent has received the cabinet�s sanction a few days ago. Unfortunately, the solemn commitment made to the people on representation of women in the highest decision making bodies of our country has not been redeemed. 

If the government had serious intentions of fulfilling its word, it was necessary to bring the bill to parliament during the budget session. However, in reality, the bill was not even listed in the agenda papers. It was kept pending with the previously appointed standing committee (headed by Congress MP, Dr Natchiappan). No effort was made to obtain the report and move to the next logical step of getting it tabled for discussion in parliament. It appears that the excuse of consensus building, which has delayed the bill time and again, is going to be used once again to justify putting this crucial issue on the backburner.  

Madam, we appeal to you to fulfil the assurance made by you in your address to parliament regarding passage of the women�s reservation bill. We request you to use your good offices to ensure that the bill is definitely tabled in the next session of parliament. We hope that your intervention will prevail on the UPA government, so that a historic step towards gender equality can be achieved without any further delay.

The organisations whose representatives went to meet the president of India were the All India Democratic Women�s Association (AIDWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), Joint Women�s Programme (JWP),   Guild of Service, Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), Muslim Women�s Forum (MWF), Centre for Women Development Studies (CWDS), All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) and All India Women�s Conference (AIWC).