When a policymaker takes up the responsibility of empowering a marginalized community or strata of society, the idea on the top of the table ought to be reservations. India has had its fair share of doubts, dilemmas & differences within the political & civil society as well as the populace regarding matters related to ‘reservation’ over the years vis-à-vis different sects & societies.
What has been consistent over the years is opposition to the provision of reservations in some form or other. Most of the opposition comes from the cushioned class, often from within the same societies who feel an incision to their privileges.
The Indian Government picked up the agenda of women empowerment seriously with the introduction of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) in 1993 to provide micro-credit to poor women for various livelihood support and income-generating activities at concessional terms in a client-friendly procedure to bring about their socio-economic development. In 1993, a constitutional amendment was also passed in the parliament according to which one-third of every village’s council leaders, or Pradhan, in the Gram Panchayat was to be reserved for women.
In the past few years, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, UJJAWALA, SWADHAR Greh & NIRBHAYA schemes have been arguably successful in improving health & education and ensuring the safety of young girls & women.
One of the burning topics of debate in the political spectrum a decade earlier was reservation of 33 percent of total seats in the parliament (Women's Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008). Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Parliament) passed the bill in 2010. However, no voting was conducted in the lower house, Lok Sabha. The bill is still pending as it never went to Lok Sabha.
In the past year, UGC has implemented 14% reservation in all state-funded technical institutions including the IITs, NITs & IISc. It is due to be increased from 14% to 20% in the academic year of 2020-21. This step has been taken by the government to increase the number of females in premier technical institutions.
The step has been rather appreciated by the population but it also faced some backlash from the male students who claim that they prepare rigorously for the examination and they deemed it unfair that female students get an advantage over male students.
This begs the question of whether reservation is the right step forward, if yes, then what improvement will it bring about?
If I may be so bold enough to compare the expected outcomes and impacts with the impacts of caste-based reservation system over the last four decades, since the Mandal Commission Report of 1980 to be precise, it can be argued that reservation has helped a great deal in the upliftment through social & economic upliftment of the reserved communities, which were priorly considered to be capable of manual labor only. Today, people from these communities (OBCs, SCs & STs) are involved in administration, research, politics, academics, technology, healthcare, etc and are helping in building a prosperous India inclusive of all of its communities.
Coming back to the topic of female reservation, why not include female reservation within the caste reservation system? Is it wrong to envisage that female reservation will encourage more and more women to participate, even compete with men? And is it not clear that it will result in a domino effect and make women competent within a matter of few years and they won’t be needing the reservation system after a certain point of time, as unpredictable as it may be? Contrary to my previous comparison, women are not resistant to change, they are hard-working & witty and eager to learn and match the dynamics of the modern world, they just need more chances and encouragement from the government and the society itself to develop and test their skills.
So, if reservation for females in institutions is a way to increase the menial percentage of women in the workforce and education now, why not? Afterall half the entire population is females!