Political pressure group Shakti – Political Power To Women conducted a “Call your MP” campaign on Thursday from 7 pm to 9.30 pm during which volunteers contacted legislators to encourage them to table and pass the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.
“Over 500 callers including farmers, women in corporations, rape survivors, students, women in information technology, rehabilitated manual scavengers, women in media, bankers, trainers, researchers, civil society activists, domestic workers, advertising professionals, entrepreneurs etc. participated in the campaign,” the group said in a press release.
Shakti said 373 Lok Sabha MPs from 24 political parties were called up, of whom 130 answered the phone and 127 promised to back the bill. However, a few parliamentarians said that while they back women’s reservation it is up to their parties to table the bill.
“Many MPs were called by multiple callers; 258 MPs did not pick up the phone or were not reachable,” the pressure group said. “A few MPs had the courtesy to call back when they missed the call, and some had lengthy conversations.”
Tara Krishnaswamy, the co-founder of Shakti, said it was a landmark effort in support of 127 elected representatives. “It is a thumping success to hear MPs who represent the voices of a whopping 192 million people of India say yes to the Women’s Reservation Bill,” she added.
Krishnaswamy said many MPs claimed that they were not allowed to raise the matter in Parliament during the ongoing Winter Session. “What is stopping the ruling party from passing the bill when the most complicated Aadhaar, Goods and Services Tax and the controversial triple talaq bill have been passed?” she asked.
Shree DN, one of the callers, said there should be a special joint session of Parliament to discuss the proposed law. “After all, they do it [hold a special session] when they want, now let them do it because people want it,” she added.
A bill seeking to reserve 33% seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women is pending in Parliament. The Rajya Sabha had passed the bill in 2010. In July, Congress President Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha as well.
Of the 543 legislators elected in the 2014 general elections, only 62 were women, according to PRS Legislative. This is marginally higher than the 58 women who were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009.