Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group
Talk of women empowerment in Indian politics is all gas as on an average there are just about 1.54 per cent women Cabinet ministers in states across India.
A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study of gender composition of Council of Ministers in 28 states of the country presents a dismal reading. The irony is that states with women chief ministers generally fare no better.
West Bengal has the distinction though of currently having the highest number of women members. There are five women members including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
For the rest, it is the same old story! Astonishingly, six out of 28 states surveyed have zero women participation in Cabinet. The list is dominated by northeastern states that do not have any women ministers in Cabinet. Apart from the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, Punjab in northern India too is currently without a woman in the Cabinet.
Eight states - Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Tripura and Karnataka - each have a woman minister in their Cabinet. Karnataka just inducted film actress Umashree in its new Cabinet.
Ten states - Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Haryana, Delhi, Odisha and Sikkim - fare marginally better with two women members in each Cabinet.
Only two states have three women ministers in the Cabinet. These are Rajasthan and Bihar. Andhra Pradesh, however, has four women ministers in the government.
The situation at the Centre is no better. Of the 71 member strong Council of Ministers, Manmohan Singh-led government today has only nine women members.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat finds the Central government’s approach towards women empowerment unsatisfactory. She says, “Obviously, the women representation in the Cabinet needs to be increased. More importantly, it also raises a question on why the UPA government is silent on the Women`s Reservation Bill for the past one year.”
Endorsing Karat’s point of view, Anu Tandon, Congress MP from Unnao, favours early passage of Women`s Reservation Bill. “The core of the problem lies with Women`s Reservation Bill. Unless this happens, women participation in decision making is unlikely to go up in India,” she said.
The Women’s Reservation Bill has been hanging in balance in Parliament for close to two decades now. It was first introduced in Parliament in 1996.
Film actress Divya Dutta averred, “Many Bollywood actresses including Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachchan, Khushboo et al have done really well in politics. I believe, we need to make conscious effort to come out of the present phase of male dominance in decision making bodies like Cabinet and give some space to women as their perspective on every issue is essential.”