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Govt offer on women’s bill

New Delhi, Feb. 19: The Centre today expressed readiness to extend the current Parliament session to pass the women’s reservation bill after MP Jaya Prada raised the issue and contrasted the delay on it with the government’s resolve on Telangana.

“If the government can make so much effort to get the Telangana bill passed, why can’t it show the same commitment to the women’s reservation bill? What is the government’s intention,” the actress-turned-MP, an unattached member, said in the Lok Sabha.

Her demand was supported by members of the Left, Trinamul, Biju Janata Dal and some from the Congress. Jaya, a Samajwadi MP from Uttar Pradesh, was expelled from the party along with Amar Singh.

The Mulayam Singh Yadav-led party opposes the bill, which seeks to reserve a third of the seats for women in legislatures, in its current form and says there should be separate quotas for Dalits and other weaker sections in the legislation.

Without naming her former party, Jaya said “some parties don’t want this bill to be passed”. “But the government can make efforts.”

This prompted parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath to declare that the government was ready to extend the current session, the last of the 15th Lok Sabha, to pass the bill. The session ends on Friday.

“The government is ready to extend the session if the House agrees and pass the bill,” Nath said.

The bill was introduced by UPA I in May 2008 and passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010. It has not been brought to the Lok Sabha yet despite pledges of support from the Congress and the BJP.

It was listed on the agenda of this session too but, given the lack of time and divisions in parties, it has little chance of being pushed if the House winds up on schedule on Friday.

Today, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, who is also opposed to the legislation, pitched another issue — reservation for OBCs, SCs and STs in the faculty of super-speciality hospitals — to counter the clamour for the women’s bill. He accused the Centre of having failed to bring a constitutional amendment to annul a Supreme Court order on hospitals.

“It is pain to stand up and raise the same issue again. We (backward castes) are more in number than you (upper castes). You did the same thing on the issue of caste census,” Sharad said, adding the women’s quota cry was ploy to deprive women from the weaker sections.

Sharad’s demand drew support from several members cutting across party lines, including the Congress, BJP, Samajwadis, BSP and the DMK.