Rahul Gandhi: 100 percent regret that Women's Reservation Bill did not include OBC's

Government's intention to bring Women's Reservation Bill was political, meant for diverting attention says Rahul Gandhi

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  22 Sep 2023 11:17 AM GMT
Rahul Gandhi: 100 percent regret that Womens Reservation Bill did not include OBCs

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday demanded immediate implementation of the women's reservation bill and expressed "100 per cent regret" that the proposed legislation during the UPA government did not include reservation for OBCs.

He also demanded that the government should conduct a caste census and make public its findings along with that of the previous caste census conducted during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.

Noting that the government's intention behind bringing the bill was political, he said it will not be implemented in the next 10 years as it has been linked to the population census and delimitation exercise.

The bill was meant for diverting attention from the growing call for a caste census, he said.

"The truth is that this bill will be implemented in 10 years from now, if it is implemented at all," he claimed at a press conference at the party headquarters, a day after Parliament approved the legislation to reserve a third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.

Gandhi said that while he favoured the bill, he sought more reservation for women from backward classes and other sections as per their population ratios.

Asked if he regretted that the erstwhile UPA government did not give OBC quota in its women's reservation bill that was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010, Gandhi said, "There is 100 per cent regret. We should have done that back then and we will get this done now."

The women's reservation bill is a good thing, but two "footnotes" of census and delimitation have been attached to it which will take many years to give this reservation to women, he said.

The Congress said delimitation and census were "poor excuses" for the postponement of the bill's implementation and alleged that the entire exercise was to create an election issue, without actually implementing it.

The opposition party also dubbed the bill a "teasing illusion".

Gandhi said, "The BJP came up with the idea of a special session. We appreciated that idea. With a lot of fanfare and pomp we moved from the old building to the new building. The prime minister in a very dramatic gesture carried the Constitution of India from the old building to the new building and he said that he is passing a very important law and we agree with him."

"Women's reservation is a central step in the empowerment of women in India and it is a critical step. But, when we read the fineprint, we found something very interesting. Two little sub-texts were there - this will be done after delimitation and that this will be done after Census. What it means is that this bill will be implemented a decade from now," he said.

"So this is a diversionary tactic," he said, asserting that the government is trying divert attention from the issue of caste census.

The Congress leader said he was shocked to find that only three secretary-level officers in the Government of India are from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and only five per cent of the budget is allocated for them. The budgetary allocation for OBCs, Dalits and tribals put together is just six per cent, he said. "This is a shocking finding."

The central question now is how many OBCs are there in India and how many are from other communities in India, he said and pitched for a caste census.

"If we want to distribute power to the people of India, we want to know this number, otherwise we are working without data.... All this data is available as the census has already been done. Why is the prime minister not releasing this data," he asked.

"What is this delay in this census. The caste census should be done now and the last caste census data should be released at once," Gandhi said.

On the BJP's assertion of the party having a significant number of MPs and MLAs from OBCs, Gandhi said, "You can ask any MP or MLA on how much they participate in law-making, how much they participate in how the money in India is spent, they will tell you there is no participation."

"And as the prime minister keeps saying he an OBC leader, I want him to explain why only three OBC (officers) are there in the Government of India and why the OBC community which is the backbone of this country is responsible for only five per cent of the budget," he noted.

Gandhi said the BJP was not been able to respond to this question and when he mentioned it, "I saw in their face the panic. Because this is the truth and this is what they are trying to distract India from - the fact that the large mass of Indian people do not have any power."

Asked whether they will provide OBC reservation among women, he said one has to do this step by step.

Gandhi asserted that the independence movement was a beginning when it was the first step towards distribution of power. "The data from the caste census is another way of transferring power to the people of the country. We have to transfer power to women, tribals, OBCs, Dalits and caste census is its foundation."

"If in our time it was less, in their time it is less too, and it is bad," he asserted.

"We have to change this and give power to the poor and common people of the country."

Asked whether this bill in the present form will be able to achieve the goal of providing reservation to women, Gandhi said, "The problem is the implementation.... We agree with the bill, remove these two clauses (census and delimitation) and implement it today. Don't insult the intelligence of India's women because India's women understand what you are doing."

(Inputs from PTI)

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