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'Disruptive' Indian MPs suspended over women's bill

9 March 10 08:10 GMT

Seven Indian MPs have been suspended by Vice President Hamid Ansari for disrupting proceedings in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) on Monday.

The MPs had shouted slogans, snatched papers from Mr Ansari's table, torn them and thrown them at him.

They were angry at the reintroduction of a bill to reserve a third of all seats in the national parliament and state legislatures for women.

On Monday voting in the upper house was delayed after protests from opponents.

The bill was first proposed in 1996 but never passed. But this time it has the backing of India's main parties.

At present women make up just 10% of the lower house of parliament, and significantly less in state assemblies.

Adjournment

Mr Ansari read out the names of the seven suspended MPs in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday morning. They were suspended for the remainder of the parliamentary session which ends in May.

The MPS are Ejaz Ali, Subhash Yadav, Sabir Ali, Nand Kishore Yadav, Kamal Akhtar, Amir Alam Khan and Veerpal Singh Yadav.

The MPs are all members of three parties opposing the women's bill: Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

Both the Lok Sabha (lower house) and the Rajya Sabha have been adjourned until 1400 local time (0830 GMT) following uproar over the bill.

After several adjournments and attempts by the government to calm tempers, voting was deferred by a day. The bill's backers had hoped voting would take place on Monday, International Women's Day.

The proposals will be tabled in the lower house (Lok Sabha) at a later date. An overwhelming majority there support the move.

Socialist opposition

While India's main parties back the legislation, smaller socialist parties argue it will reduce representation of minorities and socially disadvantaged groups.

They want set quotas for women from Muslim and low-caste communities.

The bill has the support of the governing Congress-led UPA alliance, the BJP-led NDA alliance and left-wing parties.

There are currently 59 women in the 545-member Lok Sabha. Under the proposals their numbers would rise to 181.

The composition of the 245-seat upper house, which now has 21 women, will not be affected as its members are indirectly elected by state assemblies.

India already reserves a third of local governing council seats in towns and villages for women, a move that is said to have significantly increased their role in decision-making.

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