"We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves... Political power cannot be a panacea for the ills of the Depressed Classes. Their salvation lies in their social elevation. They must cleanse their evil habits. They must improve their bad ways of living.... They must be educated.... There is a great necessity to disturb their pathetic contentment and to instill into them that divine discontent which is the spring of all elevation"
The above was said by BR Ambedkar while advocating the introduction of special quotas for the socially challenged people of the country.More than 60 years after the introduction of his social reforms India lurks in the same old social divide with the differences becoming more acute.The Reservations over the time have gifted India SP's and BSP's of the day,leaders like Mulayam's and Mayawati's and a caste divide which makes the rise of Socially challenged people more difficult than ever before.It is in this backdrop that the RAJYA SABHA (the upper house of Indian Parliament) passed what is termed as the "HISTORIC" womens reservation bill.The Bill envisages to promote gender equality in the country by reserving 33% seats for women in the Indian Parliament.
Before I move on to discuss the implications of this controversial piece of legislation let me pen down some of the most important points enlisted in the Bill
- Reservation for women at each level of legislative decision-making, starting with the Lok Sabha, down to state and local legislatures.
- If the Bill is passed, one-third of the total available seats would be reserved for women in national, state, or local governments.
- In continuation of the existing provisions already mandating reservations for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, one-third of such SC and ST candidates must be women
An important point not mentioned above is that the reservation of seats would be done on rotational basis,implying each seat would be made reserved once in 3 years.Keeping the above points let me enlist my views on the ablove piece of legislation.
Reservation in any form has been a failure around the world.US introduced it for blacks ,yet blacks remain at the bottom of social progress in American society.Canada has introduced many pieces of legislation to empower women in politics but yet ranks a lowly 50th there.Contrast this with the progress Jews have made around the world after the Second world War.A devasted race after facing the brunt of Hitler,Jews today have become the most advanced social group in the world.Estimates range from Jews controlling 2/3 of corporate America to over 50% of fortune 500 companies. Some people estimate that Jews are the most influential group in American Congress.This all has been achieved without any social or economic reservations by any country but rather by the groundwork done by various philanthropist governments and organisations around the world.In this respect it is important to mention that besides proving ineffective reservation is counter effective for other social groups n the society.This results in overall decline in the standard of living and progress rates of the country.
Another point to be looked with great interest is some structural defects in women reservation bill.For one we all know the implementation of rotational policy will inhibit the development of grass root leaders around the country.Also another important fact is that the Congress government wants to implement the bill without adequate groundwork.for one there is inadequate knowledge about the bill in the poorest and most challenged members of society.Facing a great supply demand shortage of talented women politicians ,we might constitute 1/3 (though i have doubts even about the remaining 2/3) of the parliament consisting of pseudo Rabri Devi's acting as rubber stamp for the Lalu Parsad yadav's of the day.if this is what you call women empowerment then I pity all the women of the country.A recent issue of a leading national journal estimated that about 60% of the women elected through 33% reservation already prevalent at the Panchayati Raj system are nothing more than rubber stamps for their husbands.Further with low level of education penetration among the fairer sex it would be interesting to view ,if increased representation of women in the country would help in accelerating the social progress of the country in general and women in particular.Infact historically women have been known for the misuse of power right from Cleopatra of Egypt to Indira Gandhi of India.
Keeping in mind the general faults of reservations in particular of the Bill in particular, the positive implications for society as a whole seem questionable.A better and more effective way towards women empowerment is to work on the grass root levels with NGO's and panchayats to solve the problems from the roots.A huge amount of money and human resources need to be spent on woman education,stopping problems like female foeticide, spreading awareness among general public.Besides the parties advocating the so called "historic" Bill should introspect and redefine their ticket allotment system so that women have at least a fair chance to move up the political ladder.Without such support by political parties even 33% reservation would be ineffective and would introduce nothing more than rubber stamps in parliament,leading to creation of distance power centers and ineffective administration.Thus if we are really interested in making our women leaders of modern India ,instead of passing stupid bills in parliament its time we introspect and start working at grass root level