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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.


Alexandra B said...

Hi, there!

Interesting post, first of all! Somehow, reading your blog is very much like having an insight on, or even taking a plunge in the Indian society.

However, reading it, I wondered about the compatibility between democracy and a caste-based society. Even though things are different now that they were 100 years ago, the caste order is still a cultural dimension of Indian people, and the gender reservation law clearly proves it. It is obvious that democracy is not working well, if Indian women consider they should deserve (without a proper election fight) a specific percent of seats in the Parliament or any other institution.

A change of mentality will occur within several generations, and only if the progress of free-thinking is maintained.

Best wishes,


Sidhusaaheb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sidhusaaheb said...

Thanks for the compliment!


Democracy is definitely not working well, since people are being offered benefits on the basis of who they have been born as, rather than who they have managed to become.

My vote is for providing people with assistance (scholarships, etc.) to become what they have the potential to become, rather than causing them to become dependant upon their caste or gender as the basis for seeking benefits throughout their lifetimes.

BuraNaMaano said...

Very well thought out, I must say. And your earwax incident brought to my mind a similar anecdote. My father's a doctor, and once, while he was on duty, this quota doctor was asked to check his blood pressure. The chap came up with a reading that would have meant instant death. My father was not amused at all. And he took the reading again himself. His BP was normal! Anyway, to cut the long story short, quota must go.
And that politicians only care about creating and manipulating vote banks is old knowledge :-)


Sidhusaaheb said...

Thanks for dropping by!


God save us all from 'quota doctors' and other such 'professionals'!

Let's hope that quotas will be eliminated as soon as possible.

Fi said...

Sidhussaheb: In your reply to Alexandra's comment, you've basically just said almost exactly what I was going to say :)

Sad ( and also nonsensical ) that so much talent and potential is potentially quashed because of quotas!!

The current situation here is quite difficult for students, too, though this is due to budgetary cuts rather than quotas.

Young students in Further education can still receive a small bursary ( which is means tested against parental income, etc )...but students entering Higher Education have to apply for a student loan to finance their studies and pay it back when they start earning.

Students end up working all hours to top-up their loan ( or to keep the loan as low as poss ), and their studies can suffer as a result.

Student grants/scholarships help ease that burden and the time needed to study.

Anonymous said...

Reservation and its opponents !!! Do not take it per caste based or gender based taboos.The persons who had had to bear supressions because of their low birth during his childhood cannot be expected to act as freely as those people with highclass background.Such persons need be specially trained for good posts.Let us free the society from halfconsidered opinions and come forward with judicious views. Trilok Nanda

Sidhusaaheb said...

You are right Mr. Nanda that "Such persons need be specially trained for good posts."

However, reservation seeks to allot the posts to them without that and as a sort of reward for having been born as the member of a particular caste or gender.