Sunday, November 14, 2010

From Kitchen to power; Women Reservation - A Kerala model

Different people may have different opinions about reservation, for some it may be a tool for lifting under privileged people, for others it may be an option to get vote, for others it may be one of the worst option that can be implemented by politicians - who are less eager on developmental issues and more interested in caste equations, to get votes. But 33% reservation for women was a shock even for many of the reservation hungry leaders in Indian politics. They tried all sort of methods to drop the bill or to delay it as common people understood or opposing the act because of the absence of separate reservation for women from lower castes according to them! In this situation of intense opposition for '33% women reservation in Parliment', rising attacks against girls and women, we have to analyse the merit of the implementation of whopping 50% reservation for women in the recent Kerala panchayath elections.

Now, women heads 489 gramma(village)panchayats out of the total 978, 76 block panchayats out of 152, 31 municipalities out of 60, 7 district panchayats out of 14, 3 corporations out of 5 and more than 21,682 wards in Kerala. These are the minimum figures as many more women may elected from the general seats too.

It may be true that many of the elected women representatives may be the wives, sisters, relatives of powerful politicians, or dummies to fulfill obligation of law. You can even argue that there may be back stage administration in the case of fresh and inexperienced women members. But all these things will not reduce the sheen of the election of more than half women representatives - may be a difficult fact to digest even for the champions for the women rights in the west - in the local bodies. We can also easily assume that this situation will make the local bodies more approachable for women as they may find another women more approachable.

But do we have any chance to think that women reservation will improve the system? No one can guarantee that a women representative will perform better than that of a male representative, in terms of administrative efficiency or cleaning the Indian bureaucratic system which fell deep on corruption and inefficiency. Will this move eliminate corruption in the system? Again there is no guarantee.

The policy of reserving 50% seats exclusively for women also opens a pandora's box of problems. 50% exclusive women reservation automatically indicates that men can't contest on 50% of the electoral seats for five years. Many women candidates who are going to the local bodies have no previous experience in active politics, this will make them vulnerable in decision making. Its another matter that many of the highly experienced members didn't make the system working. What will happen after 5 years? When these seats will become general seats, will the parties issue tickets to them? or they will exit from the political circles? As of a now the candidate selection committee of various parties (if they have something like that) doesn't have that much representative from women.

Any way in this stage where the scandals after scandals about politicians are exploding in the media circles, the large amount of women influx to the politics may help it to recover some of its prestige. Its a good opportunity for women to show their efficiency and justify the reservation by working hard for the welfare of the people using these panchayat bodies, which are acquiring more autonomy and new funds to implement various schemes.


PS: Please don't make this 50% reservation institutional. May be India is the only country in the world where people are striking for getting lower status [to taste the fruit of reservation], and parties are ready to make fresh offers or increase the existing quotas under reservation for various castes before elections. In fact instead of getting away with caste system we are making it institutional, hope that women reservation will not fall in this pit.

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