The Indian government has proposed a bill that ensures one-third of seats in the lower house of parliament and state assemblies are reserved for women.
The long-debated bill, initially introduced in 1996, has remained in limbo for decades due to resistance from certain political factions. Its revival is anticipated to provide an electoral advantage to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming general elections next May.
The bill was introduced during the inaugural session of the new Indian parliament but is still far from becoming law. It necessitates approval from both houses of parliament, a majority of state legislatures, and the signature of the Indian president.
There are reported intentions to expand the total number of constituencies, which could add complexity to the bill’s implementation.
During his inaugural address at the new parliament building, Mr. Modi commended the proposed legislation and described it as a momentous occasion for the nation.
The Prime Minister also criticized the opposition, highlighting that previous governments led by the Congress party had failed to pass the bill during their tenure.
He expressed, “There have been ongoing discussions regarding women’s reservations for many years. We can proudly say that we have made history.”
Mr. Modi inaugurated the new parliament building in May, but no official business existed until now. He called for a five-day special session that began on Monday, but the initial sitting occurred in the old parliament building.
On Tuesday morning, members from both houses gathered for a photo session at the old building, followed by an event commemorating parliament’s legacy in the Central Hall of the historic British-era building. They subsequently transitioned to the new parliament building, officially designated the Parliament House of India by the lower house.
These proceedings have faced criticism from opposition leaders who argue that the government hasn’t fully disclosed all the business that might be addressed during the week.
The government initially listed eight bills for discussion during this session, but it’s possible that the agenda could be modified or expanded as the week progresses.
The new parliament building is a part of the government’s ambitious Central Vista project in Delhi, aimed at replacing colonial-era government structures. Situated in front of the old parliament building, this new four-storey edifice was constructed at an estimated cost of 9.7 billion rupees ($117 million; £94 million) and has the capacity to accommodate 1,272 MPs.
The Lok Sabha chamber, where the lower house convenes, is designed with the likeness of a peacock, India’s national bird. The Rajya Sabha chamber, for the upper house, is crafted in the shape of a lotus, India’s national flower and the symbol of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
The existing parliament building will undergo transformation into a museum.