On Women’s Reservation Bill

Among the articles I read on Women’s Reservation Bill, three stood out. Here are the excerpts and the links too:

The Economist says [Link]

“Yet this triumph must be qualified. Even setting aside the question of how effective such affirmative action is—and an existing reservation of 22% of seats for wretched tribal Indians and dalits, Hinduism’s former untouchables, is discouraging—the proposed amendment is flawed. With a supposed shelf-life of 15 years, it would cover a different tranche of seats in three successive parliamentary terms. So each time one-third of India’s elected members would know they had no chance of being re-elected to the same seat. The women with reserved seats might also think their re-election hopes slim. This arrangement will discourage hard work on a constituency’s behalf.

Another reasonable fear is that male politicians will put up biddable wives and daughters for election. They already do—as Mrs Gandhi hinted at when facing down one of the bill’s main opponents, a former chief minister of northern Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who, after being sent to prison, installed his wife to rule the state on his behalf. “Your wife has been chief minister. You have seven daughters. What’s their view on the bill?” Mrs Gandhi asked him.”

Barun Mitra writing in Mint says [Link]

“First of all, the justifications for the amendment don’t stand up to scrutiny. If there is indeed political and social support for greater participation of women in politics, nothing prevents political parties from choosing more female candidates. Nor would reservations somehow change the status of women in the country—some of the worst forms of discrimination against women continued to take place even after Indira Gandhi became prime minister in the 1960s. And finally, outstanding women leaders such as Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal have come up on their own through persistence and political acumen. In the name of empowering women, the Bill is very paternalistic, believing that women cannot make it in politics on their own.

More importantly, the Bill poses a threat to the nature of India’s representative democracy. While the reservation of a few seats for certain castes might be accepted as a temporary anomaly necessary to correct historic wrongs, a reservation for such a broad section of the population undermines India’s “first past the post” electoral system. The Bill moves India towards a proportional representation system dividing the population on sectional lines. This is a change from the basic design of the Constitution, and the debates in the Constituent Assembly, when the notion of separate electorates was considered and rejected.

The Reuter Blog says: [Link]

There are doubts on whether women who do make it to the parliament on the strength of reservations would be ‘representative’ enough.

The “representative” character of the male candidates who are elected year after year is not questioned with the same vehemence.

Is being a woman enough to “represent” women?

Yet one cannot ignore the fact that money power and nepotism rule in candidate selection.

The poser is — if this reservation policy fails at sufficiently empowering women in that time frame –that failure will become a justification for continuing with it longer.