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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 11:12 GMT
India to introduce women's quota bill

The prime minister met opposition parties to evolve a consensus The prime minister met opposition parties to evolve a consensus


The Indian government says it plans to introduce a controversial bill on Thursday, which will set aside a third of parliamentary seats for women.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met with the leaders of 25 political parties, including opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, in an effort to reach a consensus over some of the contentious issues raised by the bill.



Our efforts to create consensus on the bill will continue
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Although most parties are in favour of the bill, some socialist parties are demanding separate quotas for lower-caste Hindu women and women from religious minorities.

"Some political parties wanted some changes and inclusions in the bill which will be considered," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan told journalists after the meeting.

He added that the ruling BJP's coalition partners supported the bill's introduction in the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha).

"No party in the ruling alliance has opposed the introduction of the bill," Mr Mahajan said.

Uproar

The Women's Reservation Bill, which was first mooted in 1996, seeks to reserve 33% of seats for women in parliament and state legislatures.


Some MPs want quotas for minorities Some MPs want quotas for minorities
Women have never made up more than 10% of the Lok Sabha and won a mere 43 out of 543 parliamentary seats in the last general election.

On Tuesday, opposition MPs staged a sit-in and shouted slogans against the bill in parliament.

But the main opposition Congress party is in favour of the bill and says it wants it to be introduced as soon as possible.

To be passed, it would require the support of two-thirds of the lower house before being debated in the upper house.

A constitutional amendment would be required to make the bill into law, once it is passed.

However, analysts say the bill is unlikely to be passed soon because of the opposition to it in its present form.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Vajpayee tries to defuse quota row
20 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Women's quota row prompts walkout
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
India introduces women's bill
02 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian insurance bill passed
29 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Stormy start for Indian parliament

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