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

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Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:

I know this will be an another unpopular answer, but I was depressed by the findings of the debate contest run by Murali Krishnan where 83% of the people opposed the reservation. I'm in general against reservation of all kinds, but this is a sort of gender crisis we are facing. 7 decades since independence, participation of women in national politics is still quite poor. However, in Panchayats where the reservation has been implemented, women participation and the related focus on social issues have improved.

In Gender Gap index, India ranks at 105 (even Sri Lanka comes at 39). In human development index India ranks at 134. Are you proud that this great civilization ranks that low? Should we not be ashamed that the land of great epics is ranking below some banana republics?

If you are not ashamed, ignore this answer. If you are ashamed, how do you propose we start solving this?

I consider women's reservation bill as a necessary evil to redress our falling gender ratios. As long as it has a strict time limit and also other upper bounds (no more reservation once women can get elected in > 25% of non-reserved seats) it might work.

First, bringing more women into politics has a lot of positive outcomes. Here is a nice table on how priorities change when gender changes. Page on (page 18). The research went about analyzing the impact of reservation in Panchyats (where woman reservation has been there since the 73rd amendment). Reservation increased the number of drinking water facilities, sanitation and irrigation pumps across the board.

Results of improvement in reserved constituencies in West Bengal & Rajasthan.

Even in Bihar, where we know there are many namesake woman rulers like Rabri Devi, increasing quota for women has caused a marked increase in development indicators in a few segments. Page on

Second, is the important psychological concept of Priming (psychology). In short, what it means is that when you are primed with stuff (like saying you are good, awesome and you are always born to do this has a positive effect on your outcome and viceversa). Thus, not having a lot of women in the politics brings a self-fulling prophesy ("see, women are not good enough to lead") and that substantially makes it hard for other women to enter politics. This leads to a vicious circle.  Page on

Third, is a need for role models. We take a number of role models. The more closer is the role model to us, the better it impacts our performance. I could admire Sherly Sandberg, but I might not be able to relate a lot to what she went through. On the other hand, I could more easily relate to an Indian guy role model. The same with women. They need role models who are like them. This is very important to get more women participating in the society. “Someone Like Me can be Successful”: Do College Students Need Same-Gender Role Models?

Scandinavians have been experimenting with gender quotas even in business and they have had successes. Norway's gender quota law has made boards more professional

Finally, in gender equality and other gender issues, India ranks along with Pakistan and basketcases of the world. No offense to those countries, but as Indians we should be deeply ashamed that our country ranks in 134. Let there be no positive rankings where India falls below 10.

In short:

  1. Having more women in politics is good for the society
  2. Due to the nature of vicious cycles, priming, not having mentors and self-fulfilling prophecies women would find it substantially hard to compete with a man of same intellectual capacity. We need to break the vicious cycle.
  3. Without empowering 50% of our population, we can never become a superpower.

If it takes reservation to break the vicious cycle, let there be a reservation. However, set a time limit for when the reservation should expire. Let it not be going never-ending like the caste based reservations.

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


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