In a move, which will have the anti-reservationists up in arms and signal the government's commitment to bring in 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies, the UPA is proposing 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayats.
Currently, it is only 33 per cent reservation for women in the grass root bodies.
Sources state that the proposal, which is likely to be voiced by President Pratibha Patil [ Images ] in her address to the joint Houses of Parliament on June 4 as one of the priorities of the government, is said to be the brainchild of Rahul Gandhi [ Images ].
He is learnt to have impressed upon the new Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister C P Joshi that the Panchayats, which are seeing a lot of participation of women, should be increased to reflect their true strength and worth at the grass root level.
It was his father Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ], who was the architect of empowering the Panchayats and the crucial role which women have come to play in contesting elections and participation in the democratic process.
The decision to make the first woman President of the country, followed by the first women speaker of the Lok Sabha are part of the same chain of empowering women. The Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily [ Images ] told rediff.com that one of the first priorities of the government is to bring in the women's reservation bill which has been hanging fire for long.
Another important priority of the Government which the President is likely to announce in her address is the Indira Awas Yojana for the urban poor where housing would be provided to be them. So far the Yojana was there to provide housing to the rural poor. It would now be extended to the urban poor.
A new element to be introduced would be that under the scheme the government would give subsidy on the interest of the loans which are taken for the houses. This is to ensure that the interest does not kill the marginalized and that they are able to go in for a better standard of living.
The third key proposal would be the government's intention to give minority reservation for economically backward sections along the lines of the Andhra Pradesh model, which has been successfully put in force. While there is no proposal for minority reservation in the Constitution, the aim is to bring in the poor from the community and benefit them in terms of providing employment, increasing their means of livelihood and giving them better opportunities.
The UPA government's twin focus on Food and Employment is likely to be articulated by the President in her speech. The Right to Food Act, which will be a major component of the government's programme in the next five years, would run parallel to NAREGA and is estimated by congress managers to be a real vote spinner for the Congress party.
The 25 kgs of rice promised to each unit or family per month at Rs 3 per kilo would be a huge countrywide programme expected to benefit around 6 crore units. This, say Congress leaders, would be as big and as successful as the Farmers' loan waiver scheme and NAREGA.