By meghna at 2 April, 2010, 7:34 pm
The Women’s day this year was indeed very special, the parliament passed the Women Reservation Bill with full vigor.
The reservation for women in the political front emerged with the Panchayati Raj Act, 1992 which was passed in Rajeev Gandhi’s tenure. The Act provided for women’s reservation upto 33% in the Panchayats.
Subsequently demands for women’s reservation in Parliament and state legislatures were raised . In 1996, the then Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda promised to fulfill these demands. After almost 13 years; the Women’s Reservation Bill [The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008] was finally passed by Rajya Sabha.
The bill seeks to reserve 33% seats for women in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. One third of these reserved seats would be allotted to the women belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. However, there is no separate reservation for women belonging to the Other Backward Classes (O.B.C’s). Further it is provided that the reservation shall cease to exist after 15 years of its commencement .
The Bill is highly criticized on several grounds :-
1. It seeks to reserve 181 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 out of a total of 4,109 seats in the 28 State Assemblies for women. It is argued that the number of seats allotted for women reservation is way too high and hence should be reduced.
2. The reserved seats would be allotted by rotation of constituencies. This means that a male legislator would not be allowed to contest from the same constituency again. Thus infringing his democratic rights to contest elections.
3. The choice of people would be restricted to only choose female representatives.
What is the most bothering aspect of the Bill?
I personally feel reservation does no good to the society. The benefits of reservation almost never percolate down to the lower strata of the society. It is widely observed that some families enjoy the perks of reservation from generations to generations. The people with most miserable conditions usually never get the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the legislative action.
I’m afraid that the Reservation Bill would serve purposes other than women empowerment. When Lallu Prasad Yadav was caught in the Chara Ghotala, he had to resign and Rabri Devi (his beloved wife) became the Chief Minister of Bihar. She was more like a puppet in the hands of her husband. Lallu enjoyed power without any responsibility those days. It would come to no surprise, if in the years to come we will witness more of Lallus and Rabris in the Parliament and state legislatures. Believe me it won’t elevate the existing position of the women in any way. The legislators will use women as a ticket to ensure their seats in the parliament.
Not only this the “rotation of reserved constituencies” would act detrimental to the public interest. Most of the elected leaders work for their areas expecting that their work would be rewarded by re-election. But debarring them from contesting elections again, may reduce their interest in working for the public benefit.
“The reservation shall cease to exist with 15 years of the commencement of the amendment” is also a dubious clause. It has been witnessed in past that the reservation of ST’s and SC’s (which was originally meant for 10 years) has been extended each time. The same may be repeated for reservation of women as well.
Reservation is no solution for upliftment of women in the society. Being a woman I know what a woman is truly capable of doing. We had Kiran Bedi, Jhansi Ki Rani, Sarojini Naidu, Vijay Laxmi Pundit and many others without any reservation. I would appreciate the presence of more Vijay Laxmi Pundits than Rabri Devis any day.