‘The most appropriate time to acknowledge the contribution of women’

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Extracts of the address of Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, Congress Parliamentary Party on ‘Women Reservation Bill’ in the Lok Sabha on September 20, 2023.

Translated from Hindi

Sir, I am grateful to you for you allowed me to speak. On behalf of the Indian National Congress, I have stood in support of ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Act 2023’. From the smoky kitchen to the brightly lit stadium, the Indian woman has had a long journey, but at last she has reached her destination. She gave birth, she maintained a family, she raced among men and with infinite patience, often found herself losing, but eventually winning in the last battle. The Indian woman has patience of an ocean in her heart, she never complained about the improbity meted out to her and never became selfish to think only about her own benefits. She has worked for the welfare of all like rivers and has remained steadfast like the Himalayas, in difficult times. It is impossible to estimate a woman’s patience. Neither does she prioritize her leisure nor gets tired of rendering selfless service. Woman is the nurturer of our great country for she has not only given birth to us, she has also made us intelligent and powerful enough to think for ourselves by nourishing us with her tears, blood and sweat.

President Sir, it is only by recognizing the hard work of women, the dignity of women and the sacrifice of women, that we can pass the test of humanity. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with men, women have fought on every front be itthe battle for independence or the creation of a new India. She did not get buried under the burden of hopes, aspirations, troubles and household chores. Till date, from Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and millions of women along with them, have brought the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Baba Saheb Ambedkar to life, during all the difficult times. And Maulana Azad’s dreams. Smt. Indira Gandhi’s personality is an extremely bright and living example in this regard.

President Sir, this is one of the most poignant moments in my life. For the first time, my life partner Shri Rajiv Gandhi had brought the constitutional amendment to ensure women’s participation in local bodies, which was defeated in the Rajya Sabha by 7 votes. Later, the Congress government got it passed, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao ji. Today, as a result, we have 15 lakh elected women leaders through local bodies across the country. Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s dream has so far been only half fulfilled. That will be accomplished with the passing of this bill. Speaker Sir, the Congress Party supports this bill. We are happy with the passing of this bill, but there is a lingering concern along with it. I want to ask a question - Indian women have been waiting for their political responsibility for the last 13 years and now they are being asked to wait for a few more years. For how many years 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, 8 years, is this behaviour with the women of India appropriate?

Indian National Congress demands that this bill should be implemented immediately, but along with it, arrangements should be made for reservation of women belonging to Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe and OBC by conducting Caste Census. The government must take whatever steps are necessary to make this a reality.

Speaker Sir, this is the most appropriate time to acknowledge and express gratitude for the contribution of women. Any further delay in implementing this bill is a grave injustice to Indian women. On behalf of the Indian National Congress, I demand the government through you to implement ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Act 2023’ as soon as possible by removing all the obstacles laid in its path. Doing this is not only necessary but also possible. Thank you.