50% quota for women in panchayats cleared | india | Hindustan Times
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50% quota for women in panchayats cleared

In one of its biggest steps yet to empower women in public life, the Indian government has decided to reserve 50 per cent of seats in 252,000 panchayats across the country. HT Correspondent reports.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2009 01:37 IST

Every second member of India’s panchayats and urban local bodies will be a woman.

The government on Thursday cleared a constitutional amendment to reserve 50 per cent of seats in panchayats for women and asked the urban development ministry to put up a similar proposal for quotas in urban local bodies like the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

This comes two days ahead of the government completing 100 days in office.

Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister CP Joshi described the move as saying the government has kept its promise of empowering women in the decision-making process at all levels of local government.

“We have done it. This will facilitate more women entering the public,” he said.

Now a little more than one-third of seats in panchayats and municipal bodies are reserved for women under the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, which came into effect in 1993.

India has about 2.818 million elected representatives of panchayats, 36.87 per cent (about one million) of whom are women.

With the proposed constitutional amendment, the number of elected women representatives is expected to rise to more than 1.4 million, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that cleared the move. The proposal has no financial implications.

The panchayati raj ministry is expected move a bill for amending Article 243D of the Constitution in the winter session of Parliament.

The proposed amendment will increase reservations for women to 50 per cent in zila

parishads, panchayat samitis and gram panchayats -- at the district, block and village levels, respectively.

The reservations will apply in the case of seats for which there will be direct election and offices of chairpersons, including those reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Article 243G of the Constitution enables the legislatures to endow panchayats with powers and authority to function as units of local self-government. But members of Parliament have been reluctant to reserve one-third seats for women in Parliament or state legislative assemblies.