As India took a decisive step towards giving its women one-third representation in legislatures, many women keenly watched history being made on their TV sets, celebrated the moment in their own small ways and said their country has made them proud.
Clearing the first hurdle, the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday. It seeks to set aside for women 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 of the total 4,109 seats in the 28 state assemblies.
The 13-year struggle to give women adequate representation ended with the Rajya Sabha finally debating the contentious legislation and then voting 186-1 on the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008. And that is what many women felt proud of.
‘I am very proud today. My country has made me proud,’ said Manisha Bhasin, who was glued to the TV set almost the whole day, watching the drama unfold in the Rajya Sabha where a handful of members were bitterly opposed to it.
Bhasin had ‘no regrets’ over what happened in parliament when the bill was tabled and before it was finally voted.
To put the house in order for the debate over the bill, Chairman Hamid Ansari ordered physical eviction of the seven MPs who were disrupting the proceedings to oppose the bill. They were earlier suspended but refused to leave the house.
‘That is all part of the game. In the end, the democracy emerged victorious,’ Bhasin, a housewife, said of the drama in the house.
Nishta Sharma, a student, said she had taken a day off from college to watch the ‘history in making’.
‘There were only two possibilities. Either our democracy would have shone brighter or the men MPs would have failed us. But thank god, it was the former. We are proud of our constitution,’ Sharma said.
‘I can feel the sense of victory. A victory that has empowered nearly half the population of India. I am sure, the Rani of Jhansi would be feeling proud today of her nation,’ Sharma added.
Meenakshi Jaitely, an employee of a multinational company in Noida on the outskirts of the national capital, has no plans to join politics but she is excited about the number of women MPs the next Lok Sabha could see.
‘I know the bill has to cross another hurdle in the Lok Sabha. I am keeping my fingers crossed,’ she said.
It was party time for Swati Agarwal, a banker. ‘We distributed sweets in office and partied for a while. Though I am not directly affected, there is this sense of satisfaction that women are given their due.’