Women Reservation Bill

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The Women Reservation Bill seems to be one of the cardinal achievements of our central government.  A sizable majority of Indians are immensely appreciative of the terms of this bill. Yet, how many of us have actually looked into what this Bill intends to do and how its numerous attributes will set out in achieving their goals. As an ordinary citizen, the Bill may seem inconsequential to me and many may say that the Bill in no way influences me; yet this issue has been very close to my heart and I have longed for the opportunity to voice what I think this much celebrated Bill will do.

First, the Bill introduces 33% reservation for women in the central and state legislatures. Well, we may call it a way of empowering women today; but how many women will actually benefit from this Bill? How many women even know of any such Bill? A very small number indeed. It’s lamentable the way we look at the highest law-making organs in our country. The central and state legislatures are those bodies which play a huge role in all our lives. They are responsible to form policies, make laws, and assign finances to various sectors etcetera. Yet, what we are doing here is letting gender precede merit. If a male candidate is more efficient and competent than his female counterpart then is it fair in any way that the female candidate is given preference only because she is a woman? In bodies such as the central and state legislatures the country is in dire need of people who are able and proficient; we cannot at any cost compromise on the premise of ability.

The Bill seems to be flawed in its method of implementation. The idea of rotation of constituencies will lead to manipulation of these seats by political parties, ultimately beguiling the people under the garb of capacitating women. Take Rahul Gandhi for instance, he has been representing Amethi (his constituency) for quite some time. The people have elected him as their representative election after election. Now, when it will be Amethi’s turn to send a woman to parliament, an absolutely new candidate will be representing the people of Amethi, whether they like it or not. They won’t be left with much of a choice it seems. Where then are our democratic principals? Why should any Indian citizen be deprived of exercising his/her franchise in a way he/she deems fit?

The most erroneous part of the Bill is that it does not have any provision of sub-quotas. How then are we going to prevent it from being misused? Mr. Manmohan Singh, when asked in Parliament regarding the problem of sub-quotas replied by saying that, the various political parties should field women candidates from backward classes. This sounds ridiculous when argued that if parties had political maturity enough to field candidates from backward classes in the name of women emancipation then why is there a need for such a Bill at all? Parties ought to field adequate women candidates only in the first place. What this loop-hole will do is rather predictable. Wives, sisters, daughters and nieces of powerful politicians and civil servants will be occupying these reserved seats, whereas behind them the male politicians will be calling the shots. Thereby, making a mockery of the entire system of electoral representation.

Last but not the least, the founding fathers of our constitution provided for reservation as a temporary prerequisite of governance. This has not only been procrastinated for 6 decades, but also this provision has invaded every sphere of our nation. Women don’t need hand-outs! It’s high time we realize what is really required to empower women. It is education, for men and women alike. Primary, secular, unbiased, ethical and uncorrupted education. Education is crucial in crafting our country and people. We have to stop looking at reservations as the panacea to all our problems. Sheer equality can only be achieved if all are able to compete as equals. Lofty as it may sound, yet this is the need of the hour. It is indeed lugubrious that our politicians don’t ever understand that.

Zainab Lokhandwala

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