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

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Answer by Deepak Mehta:

I will reiterate what I said on the blog: This is a grave fallacy.

All the pitfalls of a reservation system apply here.
1. Incompetence: Reservation, in any form, will ensure that at least some people who are elected/selected over their peers are less competent/deserving.

This is especially true here. India has a 50% female population, give or take. But due to the societal prejudice and discrimination faced by them over the centuries, the female populace is underprivileged and back-trodden.

What does it mean?
It means that fewer girls compared to boys are enrolled in school. Even fewer girls complete school. Even fewer attend a college. Even fewer get and keep a job. In short, if you take the ratio of women:men at various stages of one's career graph, the ratio decreases.

Proof:

  • Birth ratio (f:m) = 0.9
  • School enrollment = 0.84
  • Secondary school = 0.71
  • College = 0.66
  • Employment = <0.50

(Sources: Employment to population ratio – 15+ – female (%) in India
Ratio of female to male primary enrollment (%) in India)

2. Does not address or alleviate the actual issue (see point #1 for details)

So the problem is clear: the cascading side-effects of primary enrollment in school are astounding. When you build a building, you take care of the foundation first. Reinforcing the top floor will do no good.

3. Sets a wrong precedent and expectations:
We already have caste based reservations. We bring in reservations based on sex and there is no stopping. Next people will demand reservations based on state boundaries, religion etc.

Sorry. Doesn't work.

Also, the part where every constituency will have one woman representative every 3 years is absurd. Why? What if the person before was already doing a great job? What if the new woman candidate does a stellar job? Will she be removed in the next election to make way for a male candidate? What purpose does this serve?

This is a democracy. Based on merit and performance and not entitlement.

To everyone supporting the bill, I ask:

  1. Why not root for stricter laws concerning female foeticide, infancticide, discrimination, dowry system, domestic violence?
  2. Why not argue for mandatory and free education at primary level?

To remove centuries of discrimination and harassment  you need to have patience and focus on long term measures that will empower women and not protect them.

Abhiram Iyer also made a wonderful point when he pointed out how most of these elected women MPs would probably be dummy candidates controlled by their male family members with political aspirations. We have had a dummy PM (extremely competent, but ineffective) and we have seen what that led to.

Some people are saying that we should have other measures to ensure that this reservation is not misused. Probably a time limit of 10-15 years. The same was there when caste based reservations were introduced. They were supposed to be done away with in 1962 but they are still here, 52 years after. Vote-bank politics would ensure that this does not happen. Especially when the segment is 48-50% of the population.

Even the present US senate has 20 female members (20% of total 100), yet we do not say that women are underrepresented in the US political scenario. The current parliament has the highest no. of female MPs historically (~12%). The present cabinet fares even better (~25%)

True, India cannot and will not develop if its female force is not utilized.

So start working on it right now.

  1. Stricter laws, harsher implementation, proof by examples against female foeticide, child marriage, dowry system, domestic violence, rapes, eve-teasing etc.
  2. Mandatory enrollment in school for girls till 10th/12th. Incentivize them. Threaten them with legal proceedings. Provide free educations, books, food and vocational training
  3. If you want to introduce reservations, make them at the lowest level of the political machinery i.e. gram panchayats.

Reservation is the worst answer to any problem. It is a vicious cycle which, once set in motion, is extremely difficult to stop. The caste based reservations have over-stayed their welcome by 50+ years; we now have people (ref: MH) introducing reservations based on regional and religious parameters. The last straw would be gender based reservations.

Reservations are the easy way out. It is like selling your soul to the devil in exchange for a successful life. You might be happy for 20-30 years but then you need to be the devil's bitch for eternity.

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

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