Is the proposed Women’s Reservation Bill (33% reservation) good for India?

polity : Is-the-proposed-Womens-Reservation-Bill-33-reservation-good-for-India -2 balaji

Answer by Girish Rao:

I love this comic how it elaborates how inefficient and faulty a democratic process is. It's always a work in progress.

This question is complicated and does not deserve a black and white answer. But then it definitely got me searching online for answers. But then I must admit my confirmation bias here. I kind of already think reservations as a concept receive way too much negative flak in the first place.

So I picked up the data from Information from National Election Watch. Here are a certain facts.

Total candidates analyzed = 8198
Total women candidates = 639 (8%)
Total women winners = 62 (11% of the total candidates)
Total men winners = 480
Success rate of women candidates = 9.7%
Success rate of male candidates = 6.3%

Well, what do you know.. Women are pretty capable of winning elections here and India as a country is open to women leadership in general (atleast in my opinion)

Let me also share a pdf from which all my data points are coming from. It's a little more comprehensive. Page on This also supports Balaji Viswanathan 's points. In addition to this, let me try to highlight a few more key points.

If we have to implement a reservation for women that takes turn this means that all the candidates from a particular constituency would have to be women candidates. Now, we could argue that this would increase dynasty politics etc etc. But I would seriously ask for the amount that happens?  Are these exceptions out of the 540 seats or just a general rule.

I ask this because the study showed something weird.

In terms of participation of female candidates, using data from Mumbai, India, Bhavani (2009)
shows that in non-reserved areas, the average was less than one female candidate per
constituency, reflecting the extremely low level of female participation as candidates without the
quota policy. When only female leaders are allowed in a district, the participation of women as
candidates increases substantially: there were an average 7.5 more female candidates in reserved
constituencies versus non-reserved in the 1997 elections. Over 95% of candidates in unreserved
districts were male. When the quota mandated that only women were permitted to run for seats
in reserved districts, thereby removing competition from men, the random assignment of
reservation indicated that there was an estimated 10-fold increase in women running for office.

In addition, Bhavani (2009) provides causal evidence that the numberof female candidates was
7.4% higher in open districts in the election cycle following a cycle where the seat was reserved
for a woman, indicating that there was a sustained effect of increased female participation even
when the reservation policy was no longer directly in effect in a specific constituency.

Basically by providing more opportunities and thereby raising confidence levels on average, more women start participating. Dynasty politics I must say would face stiff competition on increased participation.

So we would have more women in leadership. What does that mean?

In citizen participation, Beaman et al. (2010) uses the random assignment of reservation to show
that the likelihood that a woman speaks in a village meeting in India increases by 25% when the
local political leader position is reserved for a woman

Essentially, the study demonstrates that the reservation
policy increased investment in goods favored by women in areas where the leadership position
was reserved for a female, thereby increasing the quality of substantive representation (i.e. the
interests of women are better represented)

So unless all men are planning to read this book

We should really stand out of the way and let 50% of our population figure things out for themselves.

There are negative effects of all discrimination through reservations. The study most definitely suggests. But then the data points around women raised by Deepak Mehta are bad and should be dealt with first. The most effective way supported by data seems to be this.

But then I do not agree with the point that Reservation breeds purely incompetence. Reservation should viewed with a goal to break through cultural and societal biases and help change mindset over all. Women on average have lesser competence as leaders only because the average experience of leadership in women is very small. You really need to give it time and you can see awesome women leaders soon.

To Deepak Mehta's point on why not enforce laws on education etc. This kind of boils down to priorities of men vs women. They usually do not match and hence becomes the deciding factor.

The study shows that, on average,
gender quotas increase investments in water infrastructure and education
Beaman et al. (2010) expands on this as well, using village survey data from West Bengal to
demonstrate the women leading in twice-reserved districts not only provides a greater level of
female-preferred goods (i.e. water infrastructure and sanitation), but also provides a greater level
of male-preferred goods (i.e. irrigation and schools), indicating that experience may strengthen
political performance. The evidence shows women maturing as leaders over time and expanding
the scope of their investments (while continuing to emphasize drinking water, the primary
 and education.

With all this data pointing supporting claims, we atleast should attempt this for 15 years and continue maybe then collect data and compare with their male counterparts. What say?

Is the proposed Women's Reservation Bill (33% reservation) good for India?


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