Modi cabinet has six women out of 34 ministers with portfolios or independent charge. Three of the women head powerful ministries such as foreign affairs (Shusham Swaraj), Commerce (Nirmala Sithraman) and Education (Smriti Irani). That is not all. The Modi government’s “throne speech” has a clause which should give some thought our own government which is yet to show a commitment to women;s representation.
“My government recognizes the important role our women play in the development of our society and growth of the nation. It is committed to providing 33 per cent reservation to them in the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies.”
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Use of Reservations is a heavy-handed way of empowering women but there seems to be no other way. When a bill to establish reservations last came up in Lokh Sabha in 2010, Laloo Prasad Yadav, who was part of the governing alliance of the Congress, put it bluntly when he said “In the name of reservation, chances of prominent leaders’ will be spoiled.” Sonia Gandhi’s response was essentially that it is such vested interests that keep women from power, and women will never get a chance if we as a society do not approve a reservation. She managed to get the reservations bill passed in Rajya Sabha but not Lokh Sabha. This time with BJP itself advocating a reservation, we should soon see the reservations bill passed in Lokh Sabha and become the law of the land in India.
In Sri Lanka, we have had a 40% quota for youth or those under 35 in Sri Lanka since 1990. In 2010, in the bill to amend the local government elections act we lobbied for a change by including women in the quota– 25% for women and 25% for youth. We had no champions in the parliament except for Rosy Senanayake from the opposition. UPFA politicians were eithers disdainful or disingenuous. When the bill became an act, UPFA’s facetious attitude towards women’s representation was evident in the wording that appeared in bill that passed –it said the list of candidates MAY consist of 25% youth and 25% women.
This is my list of women in Modi Cabinet. Did I miss anyone?
Sushma Swaraj, Minister, External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs
Uma Bharati, Minister, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Najma A. Heptulla, Minister, Minority Affairs
Maneka Gandhi, Minister, Women and Child Development
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Minister, Food Processing Industries
Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister, Human Resource Development
Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State, Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge), Finance Corporate Affairs