Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reservations - to be or not to be

Since a long time different governments have tried to battle out the women's bill in the parliament alllocating 1/3rd of the seats in lok sabha and state assemblies to women. The bill if passed would definitely change the way democracy functions in India, but whether it would bring about radical changes and lead to women empowerment is yet a very debatable topic.
I personally am quite averese to the idea of reservations and quotas. Instead of uplifting a certain section of the society , it gives them unnecessary cushioning  and extra leverage. By this logic, I am not insinuating that the backward and the subjugated sections of the society dont need to be encouraged. But the encouragement and development should be at the grass root level not superficially.
To empower a woman or to give a girl child rights at par with a boy in the society, both of them should be given an equal platform and opportunity to flourish, one should not be given an advantage over the other.In my opinion, the concept of reservation alleviates inequality rather than emancipation. For instance,when the so called backward castes make it to the premiere institutes of the country they are somewhere looked down upon, there is a hidden resentment at the special treatement meated out to them.  It is most commonly felt that on pure meritorial basis they dont deserve what they have got, because it was made easy for them through reservations. A point that is worthy of introspection is that has the mandal commission really managed to ensure emancipation and upliftment of these opressed sections of the society? Statistics tell us a different story.A large chunk of people availing  quotas belong to the middle to higher income group, hence indicating that this section of the apparently backward India did not need previlages. Ironically those who would genuinely benefit are not qualified enough. Therefore, there is a greater need for change and development at the grass root level. Similarly for women having reserved seats in the parliament, these seats would be primarily contested by scions of the political families, extended relatives of current politicians or women from influential families, thereby carrying forward the patriarchial framwork through a different via media, how is a common Indian woman being empowered here?
A country in which a girl is not educated, because the money spent on her education would rather be saved up for her dowry, will not suddenly awaken if there are reservations for that women in the parliament. But yes, if the government makes that education free and mandatory, then there definitely will be a perceptable change. A man who is poor would not educate his daughter because now its palpably easier for her to make it to the parliament, but he would definitely educate her if it is free and easily accessible. To redeem the cache of  Indian women the government must take concrete steps at giving them sound education, strict laws protecting their rights and honour, encouraging small scale industries and self employment, easily accessible loans and equal rights to property and land holdings, all of which would instill self belief in them to go out and put up a fair fight with any male counterpart sans any reservations or bills or quotas.
It is not possible to change a society and its norms overnight, but it most definitley is possible to bring about substancial changes within its realms, and that clearly is the need of the hour to ensure empowerment of women and the backward sections of the society.


  1. i disagree, at least with your general assessment of reservations. reservations are widely seen as being against the spirit of fair competition, and discouraging to merit. the implied bias is - "they" don't have "merit" and benefit from a biased system.

    however the system is gamed already. it is designed to suit well fed, well educated, socially emancipated middle class and above. how can you expect those caught in the quicksand of poverty, and social oppression, without the education to avail the best opportunities in a knowledge economy, ever compete "fairly". a stable society can only sustain only if it offers opportunities to all sections.

  2. i do not say that there should be a dearth of opportunities.... but the opportunities should not be provided at competitive levels.... make education free and mandatory (which they are now) give them equal platform at the grass root level, at the budding stages of their life... not at a stage where people are competing with eachother. why should i have to score a higher percentile and another person belonging to the so called backward class gets thru by scoring less marks? he is educated and hence is appearing for the entrance exam right?
    then why should there be a bias at that level????? opportunities should be offered but not at the cost of someone else and not at a situation where your selection is based on merit.