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Rajya Sabha passes historic Women's Reservation Bill

Tuesday, 9 March 2010 - 7:23pm IST Updated: Tuesday, 9 March 2010 - 8:30pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The Women's Reservation Bill, pushed by the government despite the threat of withdrawal of support by the Samajwadi Party and RJD, was passed by two-thirds majority.
A historic bill granting 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies was today passed by the Rajya Sabha after two days of high drama that saw suspension of seven members who violently disrupted proceedings.
The Women's Reservation Bill, pushed by the government despite the threat of withdrawal of support by Samajwadi Party and RJD, was passed by a two-third majority, a day after it was moved in the House for consideration but could not be taken up because of unruly scenes.
Of the votes polled, 186 were in favour of the bill and only one was against.
The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill could get through with "unequivocal" support from the BJP and the Left in the Upper House where the ruling UPA coalition is in minority. The 245-member House has an effective strength of 233.
UPA ally Trinamool Congress, with two members in the Upper House, did not participate in the voting.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh and leader of opposition Arun Jaitley described the measure as "momentous and historic".
BSP, having 12 members, walked out of the House saying the bill did not contain amendments suggested by it.
Lok Sabha also witnessed unruly scenes created by SP, RJD and JD(U) who forced four adjournments.

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 BJP 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, Singh expressed "deep sorrow" over the "abnormal" developments yesterday 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 (CPI-M) 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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