Nagaland ULBs: 33% Women Reservation Gets Green Light - Eastern Mirror
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Nagaland ULBs: 33% women reservation gets green light

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Nov 09, 2023 11:20 pm

The Nagaland Legislative Assembly, in a unanimous decision, approved the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2023, during an emergent session on Thursday.

Hekani Jakhalu Kense (EM image)

KOHIMA — The Nagaland Legislative Assembly, in a unanimous decision, approved the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2023, during an emergent session on Thursday.

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio presented the bill, underscoring the exclusion of clauses pertaining to taxes on land and buildings. A key feature of the bill is the reservation of one-third of seats in urban local bodies (ULBs) for women, in line with directives from the Supreme Court of India and approval from tribal bodies within the state.

However, the provisions for one-third reservation of the offices of the chairperson in ULBs for women, which was there in the earlier Municipal Act has, not been included in the bill.

The bill underwent scrutiny by a select committee which recommended additional clauses. One key recommendation is the eligibility of only indigenous inhabitants for municipal or town council membership. The committee also proposed periodic reviews of the Municipal Act every 10 years, aligning with the views of civil society organisations.

Commenting on the new act, Rio said that it is “not the end but only a beginning.” He emphasised that the time is ripe for women to actively participate in the administration of urban local bodies, expressing optimism for positive and meaningful outcomes.

The rapid pace of urbanisation in Nagaland, now with 39 urban local bodies, requires adequate urban infrastructure and amenities for the growing urban population through local self-government.

Rio acknowledged the loss of valuable decades in negotiating a consensus on urban local bodies (ULBs). He expressed hope that the newly established ULBs will swiftly take necessary measures to enhance the administration of cities and towns, fostering development, organisation, cleanliness and beauty.

 “We have traversed a long and chequered path in reaching where we are standing today”, Rio said.

The objection to ULB elections, unfortunately, became entangled with concerns about Naga customary practices. The state government found itself caught between the voices of the electorate and the constitutional mandate that needed compliance, according to Rio.

However, the paramount goal was always to resolve issues amicably through peaceful means, steering clear of violence, he added.

Rio expressed gratitude to the Supreme Court judges who, having understood the challenges faced, played a pivotal role in patiently guiding the state to the current stage where women in Nagaland would be represented in urban local bodies. He also extended thanks to tribal bodies and civil society organisations for their understanding and cooperation on this matter, despite differing approaches and perspectives.

The chief minister also emphasised that if there are any doubts about the new act, the government is committed to clarifying and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Earlier, convenor of the select committee, Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang presented the committee’s report and also proposed the withdrawal of the Nagaland Municipal Bill, 2023, initially introduced in the house on Sep. 12. The motion received approval from the assembly.

Accordingly, NLA Speaker Sharingain allowed time for the members of the house to express their support or reservations about the bill with recommendations before passing the bill.

Zeliang made the opening remark, which was followed by legislators from all the political parties including two from NDPP, one each from BJP, NPF, JDU, LJP, NCP, NPP, RPI (A), and independent MLA taking part in the discussion.

The legislators appreciated the bill and its recommendations and supported the passing of the new bill.

The Nagaland Municipal Act 2023, assented by the Governor of Nagaland, will be published in the Official Gazette in the next few days.

The CM also said the process has started and once it is notified, the electoral roll and all other processes would be made accordingly.

The state chief secretary in a circular, accessed by Eastern Mirror, requested the advocate general of Nagaland to apprise the Supreme Court on the progress of the matter, with a hearing scheduled on Friday (Nov. 10).

The state government will initiate further follow-up action as per the provisions of the act including the 33 per cent reservation for women to the ULB elections.

‘Significant leap’ towards gender equality, empowerment

The first two women legislators in the Nagaland Assembly – Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Hekani Jakhalu Kense – have termed the enactment of Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023, as ‘historic’ and ‘momentous.’

Salhoutuonuo Kruse (file photo)

Speaking to a section of the media after the ‘emergent’ assembly session, Minister of Women Resource Development, Salhoutuonuo Kruse, said the new bill signifies a significant leap towards attaining gender equality and empowerment in the municipalities.

The enactment of the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication of the present-day government in promoting women’s involvement in decision-making and securing their representation in local governance, the minister said.

Kruse also maintained that the decision taken in the assembly is a reaffirmation of unwavering belief in equal rights and opportunities for all, fostering an inclusive and forward-thinking society.

“We owe this triumph to the tireless endeavours and advocacy of various women’s organisations, activists and, particularly, the support of our male counterparts who have vigorously championed gender equality and increased representation in governance,” the minister said.

Kruse underscored the need to create an environment that encourages women to engage in politics, supports their growth in leadership and ensures their active participation in decision-making processes, for the betterment of the community.

“This is the time and opportunity for women to excel, women to be in power and women to show the world that we have arrived,” said Advisor of Industries and Commerce, Hekani Jakhalu Kense.

For Hekani, the passing of the bill was a “perfect” and “emotional moment” as the historic bill was passed when she was in the assembly. 

She believes the new act will help the agenda of women-led development, taking into account that women constitute 50 per cent of the state’s population.

“I am excited, the future is bright now”, Hekani said.

While pointing out that it took a long time to come to the present position as the matter was sensitive involving Naga customs and traditions,  she thanked the male legislators for their unstinted support to include women to be part of the decision-making body.

On reservation for women to chairpersons’ post, which was omitted in the new act, she said women should be happy to have got into the system.

“At this point of time, our womenfolk should also just take and accept what the government has passed and good days are ahead of us,” she observed.

Also read: NLA likely to pass Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 tomorrow

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Nov 09, 2023 11:20:20 pm
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