Bhubaneswar: As the world celebrates the International Women’s Day today, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s historic resolution seeking 33 per cent reservation for Indian women in the legislative assemblies and Parliament must be seen as a path-breaking initiative towards women empowerment.
Unarguably, women in India are largely underrepresented in Parliament and legislative assemblies, despite the fact that they constitute nearly half the population.
As per official figures, women make up a mere 11.6 per cent of the Lok Sabha and 11 per cent of the Rajya Sabha. The picture is more disturbing in the legislative assemblies across the country.
Even though India takes immense pride for being the world’s largest democracy and achieved the symbolic value of electing the world’s first women Prime Minister or electing a woman as Speaker, but it’s hard to hide the marginalization of women in the political decision making process.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has rightly pointed that no household, no society, no state, no country has ever moved forward without empowering its women.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Constitution. The country will move forward with much greater momentum only if the half of our population, our mothers, sisters and daughters have a role in the highest decision making bodies of our states and our country.
In 1992, Biju Patnaik, legendary father of Naveen Patnaik and former Chief Minister of Odisha, had brought women to the realm of political decision-making by providing 33-per-cent reservation for them in the three-tier Panchayati Raj system and urban local body.
It was for the first time in the country that women were brought to the realm of political decision making.
“I am confident that the mothers and sisters who run their household so efficiently will run the panchayat samiti and zilla parishad with equal competence”, Biju Babu said while making this historic provision.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Biju Babu was the true champion of women’s empowerment.
In 2011, Naveen Patnaik enhanced the reservation for women in Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies to 50 per cent. This decision has empowered the women of Odisha and has encouraged them to join the mainstream of development process.
The Odisha Chief Minister’s initiatives like Mission Shakti, girls’ education, loans at one per cent interest rate, hostels for 5 lakh tribal girls, provision of Rs 7 lakh for women under the health assurance scheme ‘Biju Swasthya kalyan Yojana’ and land rights for women are some of other remarkable steps for improving socio-economic status of women in Odisha setting perfect example for the nation.
The Odisha Legislative Assembly had adopted a unanimous resolution to provide for one-third reservation of women in Parliament as well as the state legislatures in November last year.
The Odisha Chief Minister has also formed high level delegations comprising BJD leaders to garner support of 22 parties including regional parties for the Women’s Reservation Bill in order to provide women their rightful place in the decision making bodies of the States and country.