The Indian Parliament passed the Women’s Reservation Bill on September 18, 2023, and it has received the assent of the President of India. The new “Nari Shakti Vandan Act-2023” reserves 33% of seats exclusively for women in both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. The proposed reservation will come into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise. It means that the benefits of the Bill can be accrued only after 2029. The Act does not offer reservation to women in the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Councils. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind feels that for a strong democracy, it is important for all groups and classes to find representation in power-sharing. Even after 75 years since we got independence, the representation of women in Parliament and our state legislatures is quite dismal. Efforts should be made to bring their numbers up to the mark.
Hence this new law is a good move in this direction. It should have come quite earlier. However, the law does not address the stark social inequalities in a vast country like India by excluding women from OBCs, and Muslim women. Although it includes women from SCs and STs it ignores those from OBCs and the Muslim community. Various reports and studies like the Justice Sachar Committee report (2006), Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee Report (2014), Report of the Expert Group on Diversity Index (2008), India Exclusion Report (2013-14), 2011 Census and latest NSSO reports all suggest that Indian Muslims and especially women lack in socio-economic indices. The political representation of Muslims in Parliament and state legislatures has been steadily declining. It is not proportionate to the size of their population. One of the many ways to remove inequality is affirmative action (reservation). Ignoring OBC and Muslim women in the Women’s Reservation Bill would be unjust and not in tune with the policy of “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas.”
Caste Survey in Bihar
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind welcomes the Bihar Caste Census Population Report. Jamaat feels that a caste census is required at the national level to get the latest and updated data regarding the marginalized and deprived sections of society. Reservation in educational institutes and government jobs are provided based on caste identities. A caste census will help policymakers to design better policies and formulate more accurate welfare programs. While census data has been captured for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, religions, and linguistic profiles, the latest updated census data on the national level is not available on the various castes in the country. The last caste-wise census took place in 1931. A Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) was carried out in 2011. However, the results were not released by the government. Article 340 of the Constitution of India mandates the appointment of a commission to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes and make recommendations for governments. There are apprehensions that a caste-based census would further promote caste-based political mobilization and lead to division in society. However, Jamaat feels that these apprehensions are misplaced that the question of justice and equity is paramount, and that the national caste census is the need of the hour. The results of the Bihar Caste Survey show how the population size and current reservations offered are disproportionate. The Bihar Survey shows that Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) constitute 63% of the state’s total population. (EBCs = 36% and OBCs = 27%). The survey also shows that Yadavs (OBC) account for 14.27% of the population while Dalits (Scheduled Castes) account for 19.65%. Scheduled Tribes make up 1.68% while the “unreserved” category forms 15.52% of the total population. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind believes that benefits and reservations should be in tune with the size of the population of the social class.