News

    India's Parliament Chooses First Woman Speaker

    Anjana Pasricha

    India's newly-elected parliament has elected its first woman speaker  - Meira Kumar. She is also a member of the country's low-caste Dalit community. Her name was put forward by the Congress Party, which won a sweeping victory in the recent general elections.

    Amid applause from lawmakers across ruling and opposition benches, 64-year-old Meira Kumar was elected, unopposed, by a voice vote as speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Wednesday.

    A smiling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described it as an "historic occasion." 

    "For the first time, a woman member of this august house has been elected as speaker, and that, too, a woman belonging to the Dalit community. In electing you to this august office, we members of Parliament pay tribute to the womanhood of our country," he said.

    Not new to Parliament

    Meira Kumar is a five-term member of Parliament.  She was sworn in as a Cabinet  minister last week, but resigned after the Congress Party offered her the speaker's post.

    She is the daughter of a former deputy prime minister, Jagjivan Ram, who was a prominent leader of the low castes. 

    Political analysts say the choice of Meira Kumar as speaker will enable the Congress party achieve twin objectives as it seeks to build on its decisive victory in the recent general elections.

    Image boost

    It will boost the Congress party's image as being a pro-women party.  During its last term in office, the Congress Party was instrumental in helping Pratibha Patil become the country's first woman president.

    Even more significantly, the party hopes to strengthen its base in the low-caste Dalit community, which in recent decades has switched its loyalty to a host of regional parties headed by low-caste leaders.  The Dalits belong to the lowest rung of Hindu religion's complex caste system and have faced discrimination for centuries.  Congress wants to be seen as a party committed to improving their social and economic status. 

    A smiling Meira Kumar said she is overwhelmed and has promised to do her best in her new job.

    "It would be my endeavor to run the house as well as I can and give a very fair chance to all sections of the house," she said.

    Not easy

    The task may not be easy in a house where noisy disruptions are common and  lawmakers frequently stall proceedings by shouting slogans and storming the podium.

    The prime minister has already appealed to lawmakers to observe a "new beginning" and allow parliament to function smoothly.

    Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee backs the plea.           

    "Perhaps I would like to have the indulgence of the house that ... we would like to create a new precedent not of obstruction, but debate and discussions," said Mukherjee.

    But not many people are sure that will happen in India's raucous and noisy democracy.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora