People's Democracy

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


No. 13

March 28, 2010

Tripura Reserves 50% Seats for Women in Local Bodies


                                                                      Rahul Sinha


WHEN the UPA government at the centre was still in two minds about the much talked about 33 per cent reservation for reservation, Tripura state assembly unanimously passed two bills for reserving for women 50 per cent seats in the three tier panchayats and urban local bodies, including the office bearer posts. This happened on March 9, an hour before Rajya Sabha finally gave its nod to the national level bill.

The state assembly passed both the bills unanimously, with the Congress members not daring to oppose the bills for fear of severe public criticism and isolation.

Tripura has thus become the first state in the country to enact such laws for further empowerment of women, bearing testimony to the Left Front government�s political will to enhance women�s participation in the decision making and implementing process.

Until now, there was provision for 33 per cent reservation for women in the three tier panchayats and urban local bodies in of the state, including the office bearer posts. It is worth noting here that the corresponding central legislation does not have a provision for reservation in the office bearer posts. This is thus a pioneering effort of the Left Front government of the state.

On March 2, Tripura urban development and panchayat minister Manik Dey introduced the Tripura Panchayat Act (Fifth Amendment bill) and the Tripura Municipal Act (Fourth Amendment bill) in the assembly and on March 9, both the bills were taken up for discussion simultaneously. Taking part in the discussion on the bills, chief minister Manik Sarkar said this was a historic event not only for Tripura but for the entire country. All the credit for the passing of these bills goes to the democratic movement of the state, in particular to the democratically and politically conscious women of the state. Sarkar said these bills were not being passed out of any compassion or pity for women. Rather these are our tribute to their capacity, potential and consciousness. He recalled that it was after the first Left Front government assumed office in 1978 that the system of elected panchayats through secret ballot could be established in the state. Prior to that, panchayats were controlled by the landlords, moneylenders and other vested interests. It was the Left Front government which started the three-tier panchayat system in the state. Taking a dig at the Congress without naming it, Manik Sarkar said there had been more than 40 incidents where patronised hoodlums had attacked the elected women representatives. People of the state know the perpetrators very well. He cautioned that an attempt to create a West Bengal style state of anarchy here wouldn�t be very helpful. He said the soil of Tripura is hard. Democracy here is deep rooted and is a result of tough struggles. People of the state will not tolerate it.

Panchayat minister Manik Dey said the bills were a part of the Left Front government�s continuous endeavour for women�s political and economic empowerment and emancipation. Four years ago, we had initiated a programme for women empowerment, and the government is now allotting money particularly for women in its gender budget within the state budget. Widows and destitute women are getting support with monthly allowances. Now we want them to take part more effectively in the decision making process. It is indeed a reflection of the genuine political will of the government and the parties running it, he opined.

Social welfare minister Bijita Nath said that, instead of effecting the women�s reservation bill in both houses of parliament, the union government is buying time in the name of a consensus. But the anti-people and pro-imperialist bills are easily being passed even without discussion, leave alone consensus.