‘This Is a Ladies’ Seat , Sir!’

The Delhi Metro has given respite to thousands of commuters of crowded buses, hours of traffic jams and the infamous Delhi heat. Being a student of DU, I have my routine affair with the metro too. Recently, the Delhi Metro added reserved seats for ladies. This instantly became a heated topic in ‘addas’, acting as a great conversation starter. Many are of the view that these were not required in the Delhi Metro, whereas some went to the extent of saying that if women wanted to be treated at par with men, such reservations should be scrapped altogether. I can confidently say that, travelling by the Metro since the past 2 years, I haven’t witnessed any bad or vulgar incident, but to scrap the whole notion of reservation is very extreme.

If noted, the situation is cyclical; vicious or not. The argument can be reversed and one can state that women of this country have, for years, suffered inequality and inhuman treatment. They need to be at par with men and then expected to compete. There are several clear indicators oto the fact that Indian women continue to be discriminated against: the sex ratio is skewed against them; maternal mortality is the second-highest in the world; more than 40 per cent of the Indian women are illiterate; and crimes against women are on the rise. I don’t really need to elaborate on the urgency of the situation. Any step, be it subsidies, commissions, reservations or even cajoling, should be welcome.

But why does an urban Indian girl need reservation, you may ask? The word urban in India is misleading, and more often than not, misunderstood. For example, the Sex ratio in the urban capital state of Delhi is 821, the national average being 933. Birth registration figures recently released, show that at least one in seven girls are eliminated at the foetal stage. Posh South Delhi areas, in this regard, are the worst . – Statistics indicate that 762 such cases per year. In northwest Delhi, the ratio stands at 784 to 1,000, whereas in Najafgarh; 792 girls to 1,000 boys. We need to rethink the scenario facing us, and approach the problem with a different mindset. The problem in ‘urban’ areas is much worse because identification is tougher.

Coming to Women Reservation Bill tabled in the Parliament, for 33% reservations, has been rejected several times. Justice Rajindar Sachar has noted that women are not asking for grace and charity. Their contribution to the cause of nation-building exceeds that of men. An International Labour Organisation study shows that “while women represent 50 percent of the world adult population and a third of the official labour force, they perform nearly two-third of all working hours, receive a tenth of world income and own less than one percent of world property.” Therefore, reservation for women is not a bounty but only an honest recognition of their contribution to social development. Yet even in the Rajya Sabha, where members are appointed and therefore can be easily chosen to represent a broader spectrum of India, only 28 of 242 seats are held by women.

Again one may ask, once, by God’s grace, if a girl survives and is well educated, why do they need reserved seats in buses etc? Do you then accept that women are weaker? Well no! We women are not physically weaker but we and our mindsets are inherently different from those of men. Women would not be found staring, making lewd gestures or groping around for cheap thrills ,in the words of Mr. Khushwant Singh in ‘Bottom Pinchers’. Therefore, we women deserve special treatment, not because of our so-called physical inability, but because we are more vulnerable to the harm that can be caused to us by men, even if we are cautious of our actions. Until the mentality of Indian men does not change, they should rise every time they hear, “ Excuse me, this is a ladies seat!”

Shruti Choudhary

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