From Asia Times:
Close on the heels of earning political points for appointing Meira Kumar as the country's first Dalit (untouchable) woman speaker of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) last month, the UPA has now committed itself to a cachet of women-empowerment measures.
As showcased by President Pratibha Patil in her parliamentary address on June 4, the UPA has now promised to reserve 50% of its seats for the fairer sex in village councils and city municipalities in its 100-day action plan. The measure is a throwback to erstwhile Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's move in 1992 to earmark 33% of all seats for women in panchayats (elected village councils).
Widely seen as a deft political masterstroke, this radical move will give a substantially larger representation to Indian women in a country with a population of 1.1 billion - an increase from their current entitlement to a third of the seats in urban and rural councils.
When viewed along with the government's commitment to push for the path-breaking Women's Reservation Bill - that seeks to reserve a third of the elected seats in parliament and in state legislatures for women - this move will ensure the largest-ever political space to Indian women compared to any other country in the world at any time.
Among the UPA's other women-centric welfare measures include 100% literacy for women (as against the current figure of 54%) in the next five years through the National Literacy Mission, fixing the women's quota in central government jobs and setting up of the National Mission on Empowerment of Women for the implementation of women welfare programs. All these items are listed as priorities in the government's "100-Day Action Plan" with the women's reservation bill leading the list of 25 promises for action.