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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some Likely Consequences of Women's Reservation

As I had written earlier, the Women's Reservation Bill is a direct assault on the self-respect of Indian women in my opinion and reservation, in general, as a policy, is fundamentally flawed, because it breeds and perpetuates incompetence and largely benefits the elite sections of the demographic that it is supposed to alleviate, which has become evident over the past six decades. However, even those women who had braved laathhi-charges (baton-charges) and water-cannons or gone on hunger-strike to protest against caste-based reservations do not seem to have a problem with gender-based reservations. Perhaps they have decided that just as there can apparently be 'Good Taliban' and 'Bad Taliban', there can be 'Good Reservation (read gender-based)' and 'Bad Reservation (read caste-based)'.

In any case, the bill has been passed by the upper house of parliament and will probably sail through the lower house as well, since some of the opposition parties have also decided to vote for it.

As far as I can see, the pieces of legislation that are likely to follow this one are likely to include reservation for women in institutions for higher education, government jobs and, ultimately, promotions as well. So far, the honourable Supreme Court of India has limited reservation, inclusive of quotas of all kinds, to 50%, but that could change once the Constitution is amended.

Let us suppose that the quota for women will be pegged at 33%, just as in parliament. That would leave only 17% seats in the 'General Category' (100% - (50% + 33%) = 17%), implying that parents of young boys who are not eligible for any kind of quota should start saving, in order to be able to send their sons to study at colleges outside of India. That is especially so since the entry into India of foreign universities, which would not be obliged to implement the quota system, appears difficult, since the relevant legislation is being sought to be blocked by the opposition.

Educational loans should be of assistance, but are unlikely to cover the entire expense. Some relief might come in the form of a few privately controlled institutions from India setting up branches in neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In view of the demand, some Western Universities or even some reputed ones from the Asia-Pacific region might also set up branches in those countries, to provide a more economical alternative to students travelling to the countries of origin of such universities.

I would also expect emigration from India to North America and Europe to increase, especially by families with young male children, on account of the increased reservation.

The scenario described above might appear alarmist and might ultimately turn out to be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am quite convinced that it correctly indicates, at least, the shape of things to come.

On the other hand, one can expect the number of achievers and competent professionals amongst women like Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Sarojini Naidu, Kiran Bedi, Bachhendri Pal and Arundhati Roy, to decline, rather than vice versa, because of the women's quotas. People generally tend not to work hard towards something that they can obtain without actually having to make too much of an effort, as has been demonstrated by most of those who have availed of the caste-based quotas over the past six decades.

I recall that in the hospital where free medical care was provided for all employees and their families by the pubic-sector unit that my father used to work for, most patients avoided the 'reserved category' doctors. I had the misfortune of visiting such an E. N. T. specialist once, who made the pain in my ear much worse and I had to be taken for treatment to a registered medical practitioner by my parents. The R. M. P. managed to cure me within two days (He prescribed ear-drops, to soften some solidified ear-wax, which was subsequently cleaned away.), something that the 'quota doctor' had not been able to achieve over a week (He even contemplated surgery!). Proof also exists in the form of the fact that caste-based reservations in educational institutions had to be followed with quotas in jobs and, subsequently, promotions.

The policy of reservation should be scrapped and replaced with scholarships, fee-exemptions and free board & lodge for bright students among the poor and allocation of more election tickets to candidates from the so-called underprivileged sections of society by political parties that really want to help them.

Unfortunately, however, it has become a tool in the hands of politicians, who use it to build captive vote-banks for themselves, since whichever section of the population is brought under its purview suddenly seems to discover how noble it is supposed to be, even if vehemently opposed to it earlier.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

To Hang Till...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Punjabi Poetry by Rajab Ali

It was at the funeral service for one of my father's aunts (the wife of a brother of his mother's) that I heard the kathhaa-vaachak (preacher) recite a few couplets by Rajab Ali. It was my first encounter with his poetry and I was enthralled. The departed lady's oldest son i. e. my father's cousin later promised to collect as many of Ali's verses as he could and put those down in a notebook, for me. I never found out whether he was able to do that as he succumbed to cancer a few years down the line and, somehow, I did not get a chance to meet him in-between.

Apparently, the poet was an overseer in the irrigation department, posted in the Malwa region of Punjab, before 1947 (after which he moved to the newly-formed Pakistan, along with his family), and he spent a good part of his tenure at my paternal grandmother's ancestral village and a few surrounding ones. Many of those from my parents' generation and those preceding it still recite and listen to his kavishari over there, probably not as often as before though. So, it was quite a pleasure to come across some of his poems posted online, in the Gurmukhi as well as Roman scripts.

One does wish that the great man had been treated better by the country of his birth and provided with adequate security at the time of partition to protect him and his family against the violence that took place, so that he could stay and practise his craft in India, or by his adopted country, where his services to the Punjabi language never really received due recognition.