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Interview of the week

Interview of the week
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The Deputy Speaker keen to lead women MLAs delegation to Lok Sabha Speaker to press for the law. Padma Devender Reddy, 45, was elected as the first...

‘Providing 33 per cent reservation for women in politics is need of the hour’

Padma Devender Reddy, 45, was elected as the first Deputy Speaker of newly- formed Telangana State on June 12 this year. Born in Rampur, Karimnagar district, she completed BA and LLB. She was a practising advocate in Ranga Reddy district court and High Court before entering politics. She joined TRS in 2001 and actively participated in the Telangana movement. She won from the Ramayampet constituency in 2004 elections by defeating Congress heavy weight and actor-turned-politician Vijayashanti in Medak segment. Speaking to The Hans India correspondent Mahesh Avadhutha, she listed out her priorities. Excelling in Deputy Speaker’s role to meet the expectations of the government and the opposition parties, giving a major face-lift to Edupayala temple in her constituency, pushing for women’s reservation in politics and overall development of the Medak constituency are on top of her agenda. She feels the first Telangana Assembly would be a role model and inspiring for others since it was held in a very cordial atmosphere unlike the friction that existed in the past. Excerpts:

You have distinction of becoming the first deputy speaker of Telangana State. What are your impressions regarding the just-concluded budget session?

This session lasted 19 days in which meaningful and constructive discussions were held in a very congenial atmosphere. Besides the government, all opposition parties should be commended for this. Every political party tried to express views keeping aspirations of people in mind. The best thing, according to me, is extending session by a week so as to give ample time to debate on people-centric issues besides introduction of a few key bills. Even debate on demands went on past midnight (12.40 am) on November 27 when every member was given opportunity to speak.

Political analysts’ commented TRS government was a bit harsh in suspending members of opposition parties on a few occasions. What do you have to say about that?

People were keenly following Assembly proceedings hoping that the newly-formed Telangana government takes crucial decisions for the betterment of their lives. A few parties tried to create ruckus but did not bother to heed to requests of the Chair and the government to co-operate. If the government wanted, it could have pushed through key topics amidst the din. However, it wanted to take views and suggestion of opposition parties and hence took to suspension decisions as a last resort.

Do you have any suggestions to ensure smooth Assembly proceedings avoiding commotion inside House?

It’s not that ruckus was created every day. Usual business was held regularly with question hour followed by zero hour and then discussion on calling attention and short notices, resolutions besides bills. Almost all members got a chance to speak. This was in contrast to the previous Assembly session where some members did not get to speak in the entire five year tenure.

As a woman, lawyer and now a deputy speaker, how are you striking balance? Are you getting time to visit your constituency quite often and address people’s issues?

Not many know that I made a whirlwind visit of my constituency Medak three times during this budget session. I started from here around 5.30 am to Medak, took part in a few official programmes and then returned to Hyderabad by 10 am in time before the commencement of Assembly. I am spending four to five days in a week in my constituency taking stock of all government schemes and programmes.

Being a Deputy Speaker, I have a big responsibility on my shoulders. But the big advantage is having a good idea about problems and issues at constituency level since I have been a member earlier too. So even when I am preoccupied with my post, I am making it a point to talk to government officials and enquiring about progress of works in my constituency.

Speaker Madhusudhana Chary undertook a novel campaign to bring neglected Chenchus from his constituency into mainstream. Do you have any plans for your constituency?

The noted Edupayala Durgamma temple is in my constituency and I want to develop it into a major pilgrim centre in the coming years. This is the only second Vanadurga mata temple in the entire India besides similar temple in Kashmir. People from ten districts visit this temple during the famed Edupayala Jatara. In this backdrop, we are in the process of devising an action-plan with Rs 20 crore budget to develop the temple. Government Advisor K V Ramanachary and Shilparamam architect G Kishan Rao are involved in this project.

Can we assume the just-concluded budget session as the last one in present House since a decision was taken to redesign it in time before next budget session?

Despite full attendance of the members many seats were remaining vacant since the House was designed taking into account requirement of the undivided Andhra Pradesh which had 294 MLAs. Now, we have to redesign according to the seating requests made by members taking into consideration of comfort levels and spacing. All options are being explored and nothing has been finalized so far. We are trying our best to finish this work at the earliest.

There is a talk that new House would have 165 seats

The present strength of Assembly is 120, including nominated Anglo-Indian MLA. After delimitation this figure is expected to increase to 153 seats. At times there will be joint session to be addressed by Governor in which both MLAs and MLCs would sit in one hall. This needs to be kept in mind while deciding the number of seats in the redesigned Assembly.

What plans do you have to push forward the bill for reservation for women in politics that has been kept in cold storage for years?

Providing 33 per cent reservation for women in politics is the need of the hour and all political parties should make their stand clear on this. Thankfully our Chief Minister realised the importance of political empowerment for women and hence took steps to pass a resolution for the same in the Assembly.

The person in charge of top legislature body in the country, Lok Sabha is a woman. Do you like to make use of your good offices to lead a delegation of women MLAs to meet her in this regard?

Why not? I would speak to my fellow women legislators and hope to meet Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for pressing forward the Women’s Reservation Bill. It is a big advantage that the Speaker is also a woman. She definitely understands the importance of giving equal opportunities for women to excel in this field. Moreover, our MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha is representing Telangana at national level. I am sure she would like to accompany the state delegation to meet Speaker and other heads of the government on this issue. I am pretty hopeful that this bill would be passed during my tenure as Deputy Speaker of Telangana.

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