Wednesday 17 April 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed


Kanya, Kaliya and Krishna Kanhaiya


I recollect nostalgically that day in September 1996, when I had the privilege of a lifetime to pilot the Women’s Reservation Bill (Constitution Amendment Bill) in the Lok Sabha. I was then the Law minister of India.

H D Deve Gowda

Mother India's Kanya (daughter) has won the first step towards attaining the promised one-third reservations in the Parliament and the State legislatures. Congratulations ladies. I am sure you will win the next few miles as well.

The fight for women emancipation has been long and arduous. Who can forget Mahatma Jyotiba Fule and his wife Savitribai who raised the flag of women revolt against tradition and orthodoxy of the Hindus, who had pinned the woman to the hearth and the grinding stone! And Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Lord Bentinck, who fought against the pernicious practice of SATI (Lord Bentinck called it "Ritual Murder") and banished it.

The Women's Liberation Movement has, through the ages, endured the wrath of the conformists and traditionalists . The present Bill in the Parliament is also passing through the same phase. The Yadav troika of Mayawati, Mulayam Sing and Lalu Prasad are not against the Bill per se. They are playing their favorite tune to their special constituencies and vote blocks of the marginalized backward classes. They insist that there must be a horizontal reservation for the marginalized backward class of women out of the one-third quotas that the Bill seeks to reserve for the women in general.

Mulayam Sing has expressed the concern of the pro-backward class reservationists that in case such a reservation for women is not made  now, it may never be made and all the reserved seats will be cornered by the BOBCUT  women. Bobcut is their derisive term for the city bred, mini clad, neo rich socialites or the page 3 generation. His concerns may be genuine; but who prevents these gentlemen from ensuring that party tickets for elections from the reserved as well general seats are given to the marginalized class of women in sufficient numbers? Ms Sonia Gandhi has rightly posed this question.

The Women's Reservation Bill sends me down the memory lane...

I recollect nostalgically that day in September 1996, when I had the privilege of a lifetime to pilot the Women's Reservation Bill (Constitution Amendment Bill) in the Lok Sabha. I was then the Law minister of India. The united Front Government headed by Shri H. Deve Gouda had adopted a Common Minimum Programme, which included the reservation of one-third of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for Women of India.

Lalu Prased, then Chief Minister of Bihar (he was facing a piquant situation due to allegations of corruption in the famous fodder case) and Mulayam Singh, then the Defense Minister of India, were part of the united Front. They had their own reservations regarding the quota system and desired that a quota within the one-third quotas must be reserved for the women from the marginalized backward classes. But within the Council of Ministers, Mulayam Singh was not as vociferous as he is now. Inspite of such divergent views, Shri Deve Gouda decided to go ahead with the reservation bill.

One fine early morning, I got a call from the Prime minister, "Brother, Please Come. Let's have a cup of Coffee." That was the peculiar way of Shri Deve Gouda of inviting a colleague in the cabinet for discussion on an important topic. I met him at his 7 Race Course Road residence in his study. He was dressed in his usual farmer's dress of a white cotton dhoti and sleeveless vest with side pockets.

As I pulled a chair next to him, he told me to draft the Constitution Amendment Bill for one-third reservations of seats for women and a Cabinet note on the subject.

"Can you send it to me today?" He seemed to be in a hurry.

MPs tearing women's quota bill in the ParliamentI requested for a day or two more and he agreed. The cup of Coffee did not arrive and I rushed to meet with my team in the Law Ministry. The Bill was ready as promised. It got the approval of the cabinet and I gave notice of its introduction in the Lok Sabha.

On 6th September 1996, I waited for the Speaker to invite me to seek leave of the House. There was hectic activity all around. The proponents and the opponents of the bill were getting ready for the battle. But Mr Deve Gouda outwitted all opponents of the Bill. In the midst of deafening din in the House, he himself asked for leave of the house and before the opponents could make their concerted move to oppose the introduction to the bill, the House granted leave to introduce the bill. The bill was introduced in a matter of seconds...

What followed was a chaos. The tactical move of the Prime Minister was greeted with loud cheer as well as shouts of displeasure. Some entered the well of the House, some others gestured menacingly towards me.

But the die was cast. We came out triumphantly surrounded by the cheering women members of the House. The women were ecstatic.

One of the ladies compared the opponents of the reservation of women to the mythical Kaliya serpent, who was vanquished by Krishna.

"You be the Kanhaiya and vanquish these serpents", another quipped. There was a chorus of cheerful laughter.

"We will sing praises for you Kanhaiya" , another woman said laughingly and there was laughter all around.

The Bill has now sailed through the Rajya Sabha. It must be passed by the Lok Sabha and then ratified by at least one half of the State Assemblies. A long and arduous way indeed.

The Kanyas of India are still waiting for Krishna Kanhaiya to vanquish the Kaliya. Wish you all the success ladies!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

yes in addition to mining the other most appropriate topic for Mr. Khalap would be to voice his views and action on the abnormal delay in the judicial process! He is the Hon. Chairman of the Law Commission and I am sure he has read the statement by one of the Hon. High court Judges that to clear the backlog of pending cases it would take another 350 years! Does he find this normal or abnormal? And if abnormal what steps and concrete action does he suggest to bring improvements?

vishwas prabhudesai |

Dear Mr. Khalap,

Why don't you write on mining and its dangers to goa and its environment?

Jayant |

Sweet memories!!.....ha ......recalling the Golden Period of your political career................

................................not bad the way, who is the Krishna Kanhaiya now??

Nilesh Shetgaonkar |

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Ramakant Khalap

Adv Ramakant Khalap is former Chairman of the Goa State Law Commission. Being a veteran politician of Goa, he has served the political arena as the union law minister as well as Goa’s deputy chief minister and the opposition leader in the past. He also takes keen interest in literature and cultural activities while heading several institutions, especially in the field of Marathi literature.


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