KOHIMA: In a historic move to ensure women’s active participation in urban governance, the Nagaland Assembly unanimously passed the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023, reserving 33% seats in urban local bodies (ULBs) for women.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who introduced the bill during an emergent session on Thursday, said, “This law is not the end, but only a beginning.”
Highlighting the significance of this legislation, he stated that the Bill aligns with directives from the Supreme Court and enjoys the endorsement of prominent tribal bodies in the state.
However, Chief Minister Rio noted that the earlier reservation for the post of ULB chairperson has been removed and proposal to levy taxes on land and properties has been deleted from the new Bill.
The chief minister also acknowledged the challenges and incidents that arose during previous attempts to hold ULB elections in Nagaland, which led to the drafting of the present bill.
A Select Committee, led by Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang, examined the bill and recommended the inclusion of additional clauses.
Notably, the committee suggested that only indigenous inhabitants of the state be eligible to become members of any municipal or town council, and that the Municipal Act should undergo periodic review every ten years, a view shared by various civil society organisations (CSOs).
The bill’s report, presented by Zeliang, was approved by the Assembly, leading to the unanimous withdrawal of the previous bill from September 12 and the passage of the new Bill introduced by Chief Minister Rio.
Leaders from various political parties in the Assembly, including NDPP, BJP, NCP, NPP, LJP (Ram Vilas), Naga People’s Front, RPI (Athawale), JD(U), and Independent members, participated in the discussions and supported the Bill’s passage.
Following the unanimous passage of the bill, Chief Minister Rio shared that the ULB election process had commenced and the State Election Commission is expected to announce election dates shortly.
Municipal elections in Nagaland have been long overdue, with the last polls held in 2004. The delay was due to unresolved Naga Peace Talks and opposition to the 33% reservation for women mandated by the Supreme Court.
Earlier on November 6, the Assembly Select Committee reached a consensus with apex tribal bodies, including the Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation, Central Nagaland Tribes Council, and Tenyimia Union Nagaland, to pass the new bill, marking a significant step towards promoting gender equality and strengthening urban governance in Nagaland.