Day 1 in New Parliament Building: Farewell to the Old Parliament Building and Introduction of Women’s Reservation Bill
In a momentous announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid farewell to the old parliament building, revealing its new name, “Samvidhan Sadan” or “Constitution House.” This renaming ceremony took place during the Prime Minister’s final speech at the old building. Subsequently, Prime Minister Modi led all Members of Parliament (MPs) on a symbolic journey to the new parliament building, marking the official transition to the new legislative venue.
After moving to the new parliament building, in a landmark moment during the ongoing special session of Parliament, the Women’s Reservation Bill, known as ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,’ was introduced in the Lok Sabha. This bill aims to provide a 33 percent quota for women in both Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasizing the significance of this historic day, urged the Opposition to unanimously support and pass the bill, which has been pending for nearly three decades.
A Symbolic Transition on Ganesh Chaturthi
Prime Minister Modi emphasized the auspiciousness of the day, which coincided with Ganesh Chaturthi, as MPs prepared to leave the old parliament building. During his address, he turned toward the speakers of both houses and made a heartfelt request. He urged the authorities to ensure that the old parliament building is never simply referred to as the “old parliament.” Instead, he proposed naming it “Samvidhan Sadan” to preserve its legacy as a source of inspiration.
Prime Minister Modi stated that by naming it “Samvidhan Sadan,” the memories of the great individuals who once convened in the Constituent Assembly within its walls would be forever linked to the structure. He emphasized the importance of passing this legacy on to future generations.
A Historic Icon in Transition
The old parliament building, an iconic structure designed by British architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, was completed in 1927. As of now, it stands at 96 years old. Over time, the building proved inadequate for contemporary legislative requirements, necessitating a move to a new, more functional venue.
Preservation and Retrofitting
During his speech, Prime Minister Modi paid tribute to every aspect of the old building, acknowledging its historical significance. He expressed his hope that MPs would enter the new parliament building with renewed hope and confidence.
Government sources have indicated that the old building will not be demolished. Instead, it will undergo retrofitting to create more functional spaces for parliamentary events. There are also reports suggesting that a portion of the old building may be repurposed as a museum.
Officials have emphasized that this historic structure will be preserved as an invaluable archaeological asset for the country, ensuring that its legacy endures for generations to come.
PM Modi’s Call for Women’s Empowerment
Prime Minister Modi, addressing the Lok Sabha, highlighted the historic nature of the occasion, taking place in the new Parliament building. He described this bill as the commencement of Parliamentarians opening doors for women’s empowerment. He announced that his government is introducing an essential constitutional amendment bill that aligns with the commitment to women-led development. PM Modi stressed that ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ would further strengthen Indian democracy. He called upon lawmakers to support the bill, expressing his desire to see more women actively participating in the country’s development.
Empowering Women in Politics
Despite women accounting for nearly half of India’s 950 million registered voters, their representation in Parliament stands at only 15 percent, with a similar underrepresentation in state legislatures, at around 10 percent. The Women’s Reservation Bill, once approved, will significantly increase the number of women Members of Parliament (MPs) in Lok Sabha, raising the count from the current 82 to 181, according to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
Congress’s Role in Pushing for Women’s Quota
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury credited his party with advocating for the Women’s Reservation Bill. He pointed out that former Congress governments led by Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and Manmohan Singh consistently attempted to pass the bill, recognizing its importance in achieving gender parity.
Chowdhury highlighted that the bill had already been passed in the Rajya Sabha during the Congress regime under Manmohan Singh. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah countered this claim by stating that the bill had lapsed.
Highlights of the Women’s Reservation Bill
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, introduces three new articles and one new clause in the Constitution, with key provisions:
- New Clause in 239AA: Reserving seats for women in the Delhi Legislative Assembly, allocating one-third of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) for women, and dedicating one-third of total seats filled by direct elections to women through a parliament-determined law.
- New Article – 330A: Reserving seats for women in Lok Sabha, with one-third of seats reserved for SCs and Scheduled Tribes (STs) also reserved for women, along with one-third of total seats filled by direct elections to Lok Sabha.
- New Article – 332A: Reserved seats for women in every state Legislative Assembly, allocating one-third of seats reserved for SCs and STs for women, and dedicating one-third of total seats filled by direct elections to Legislative Assemblies to women.
- New Article – 334A: Reservation will become effective after delimitation following the publication of relevant figures from the first census. Rotation of seats for women will be implemented after each subsequent delimitation exercise.
History of the Women’s Reservation Bill
The Women’s Reservation Bill, first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1996 by the Deve Gowda-led United Front government, faced obstacles in gaining approval. It was referred to a joint parliamentary committee, which submitted a report to the Lok Sabha in December 1996. However, the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
Subsequent attempts in 1998, 1999, 2002, and 2003, including support from Congress, BJP, and Left parties, failed to secure the majority vote. In 2008, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government introduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it was passed in 2010. Unfortunately, the bill was never considered in the Lok Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.
The renaming of India’s old parliament building to “Samvidhan Sadan” marks a historic moment in the nation’s legislative history. This renaming not only pays homage to the legacy of the Constituent Assembly but also underscores the importance of preserving historical landmarks. The old parliament building will continue to serve as a symbol of the country’s democratic heritage.
The introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha marks a significant step toward achieving gender parity in India’s political landscape. Prime Minister Modi’s call for unity and support for this bill underscores its importance. If passed, this historic legislation will contribute to a more inclusive and representative democracy, empowering women to play a more prominent role in shaping the nation’s future.
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