Cabinet approves 50 pc reservation for women in Panchayats

New Delhi: The Cabinet on Thursday approved the proposal for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats from the present 33 per cent to 50 per cent with the provision being applicable to all seats filled through direct election, office of chairpersons and of offices reserved for SC/ST.

"The Cabinet approved the proposal for moving an official amendment to the Constitution (One Hundred and Tenth Amendment) Bill, 2009 for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats at all tiers from 1/3 to at least 50 per cent," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.

The Amendment Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on November 26, 2009, will incorporate one change suggested by the Standing Committee on Rural Development that the word "rural" be added before the word "population" wherever it occurs in the draft legislation.

The intention behind adding "rural" before "population" is to reflect appropriate demographic representation of categories of population for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for whom reservation is made.

The provision of reserving half the seats for women in Panchayats will apply to the total number of seats filled by direct election, offices of chairpersons and seats and offices of chairpersons reserved for SCs and STs.

"Enhancement of reservation for women in Panchayats will facilitate more women to enter the public sphere and this will lead to further empowerment of women and also make Panchayats more inclusive institutions, thereby improving governance and public service delivery," Soni said.

Bihar and some states have already made suitable amendments to increase reservation for women in Panchayats from 33 to 50 per cent.

At present, out of the elected representatives of Panchayats numbering approximately 28.18 lakh, 36.87 per cent are women. With the proposed Constitutional amendment, the number of elected women representatives is expected to rise to more than 14 lakh.