Monday, March 08, 2010

An assault on freedom of choice

Women's quota or Biwi-Beti-Bahu-Behen-Bhanji quota?

Is the Women's Quota Bill motivated by genuine concern for gender equity?


Monday’s appalling bedlam in Rajya Sabha deserves to be condemned without any equivocation. MPs affiliated to Samajwadi Party, RJD, BSP could have stalled proceedings without making a spectacle of themselves and denigrating Parliament in so crude a manner.

Had Government insisted on tabling the women’s quota Bill, aimed at reserving 33 per cent parliamentary and Assembly constituencies for women, those opposed to the measure could have spoken and voted against the proposed amendment to the Constitution of India in both Rajya Sabha and, later, in Lok Sabha.

Like any other law adopted by Parliament, the women’s quota Bill, once enacted and signed into law by the President, can be (and must be) challenged in the Supreme Court as ultra vires of the Constitution. A Constitution Bench should decide its validity/legality.

The proposed law reserving legislative seats for women is bad in law. It should never have been proposed, leave alone pushed for adoption by Parliament.

The women's quota Bill flies in the face of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India to all citizens. Article 15 promises:

"Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.—(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them."
If the Bill becomes law, it will:

.Remove all incentive to nurse constituencies;
.Sitting MPs will insist nomination for their own kith and kin.
.Institutionalise the Rabri Devification of politics.

If experience with reserving seats for women in panchayats and local bodies is any indication, the Bill should really be called the ‘Biwi-Beti-Bahu-Behen-Bhanji Bill’. We will have ‘proxy’ women MPs who will be no more than puppets on strings pulled by their husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers, uncles. The possibilities are truly mind-boggling.

This is not about political empowerment of women, but legitimising nomination of kith and kin. Democracies which have empowered women politically and liberated them from gender bias, discrimination and misery have achieved it through policy initiatives and not fraudulent legislation or bogus quotas.

Most important, it strikes at the very core of democracy: It restricts freedom of choice.

The women’s quota Bill is a travesty and a fraud on the Constitution.

Had the Congress and BJP not issued three-line whips and allowed a free vote, 90 per cent, if not more, of their MPs would have voted against the Bill. The fear of offending their leaders and inviting punitive disciplinary action, apart from the compulsion of being seen to be ‘politically correct’, has silenced MPs in Parliament. You should hear them speak in private.

Gender equity is better served through other measures. Not by bogus laws that will help perpetuate and perpetrate dynastic rule by another name.

If the Congress, the BJP and CPI(M) were genuinely concerned about the poor representation of women in State Assemblies and Parliament, as they raucously claim to be, they would have amended their respective party constitutions and made it mandatory for the inclusion of 33 per cent women in their list of candidates for elections (as has been suggested in the past and demanded by women members of these parties), with the proviso that constituencies would be selected by a random draw of lots to be conducted in the presence of independent observers, nominated by what are now referred to as civil society groups.

Meanwhile, we must remain vigilant against the shrill demands of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav for communal quota. It is entirely possible that Congress will cut a deal, grant communal quota, to get Bill through, and then claim credit for both ‘empowering women’ and ‘empowering Muslims’. Was Monday’s disruption stage-managed to include communal quota by way of forging ‘consensus’ as demanded by Lalu and Mulayam? Nothing can be put past the Congress.

Of course, if this were to happen, it would be interesting to watch how BJP responds. Without the BJP’s vote, the Bill can’t get through Rajya Sabha.

PS: The absurdity of the proposed law is best illustrated by Shahrukh Khan’s tweet, addressed to a television journalist:

“tell me is this bill a good thing or wot? sorry dont understand the details..need enlightening in 140 words please.”

The future of democracy in 140 words? As they say on twitter, ROTFLMAO.

12 comments:

Nimesh Nagar said...

I totally agree with your view sir.

In fact not just gender based, reservation on any basis shouldn't be there at all.

For example, I am born in small district of Rajasthan called Banswara.
All our MPs & MLAs seats are there reserved only for ST/SC

That means If I want to enter politics, I can't contest elections in my own native place.

But our constitution doesn't even allow me to contest from there because I am Hindu-Bramhin who unfortunately doesn't fall into any reserved category.

I don't have anything against any caste or religion, but what is a law if it doesn't allow a person to contest election from his own home town.

PS:- From last 4 yrs I am settled in New York as a software professional.
I have desire to serve my people, but why should I come back when my nation doesn't allow me to contest election from my own place.

Thanks
Nimesh Nagar
(nimeshnagar@gmail.com).

BK Chowla, said...

Whatever happens to the bill, only time will tell.
Isn't the Cong trying to show this as a case of Sonia rather than the Parliament and the Nation?

omnithere said...

no, it's not good. if a woman can't fight for herself, how will she fight for the rights and requirements of the people she represents? reservations are anti-growth.

sunaath said...

You are right. Women who are capable do not need any quota. Other women are only puppets like Rabdi Devi. The husbands of these women can operate clandestinely!

Anonymous said...

If any of the parties are serious about representation of women in Parliament, they can explore possibilities of doing so without affecting the present status quo.

Just have two reps from each constituency, one M and one F (or non-M, to accommodate Gs). This will of course double the numbers in Parliament - but if we could accommodate double the numbers of seats, without giving additional resources, in schools, colleges, IITs, IIMs etc, by adopting staggered timings and the shift system, the same can be done in Parliament - every session in two parts, half the members attending first shift and the other half second shift! Conduct the same business twice with two different speakers. So every bill to pass through 4 sessions, 2 in LS and 2 in RS.

One more rule to be adopted: The two representatives from any constituency must not be related to each other within 3 degrees of connection - either directly or through marriages.

Every voter gets to vote for 2 persons - one M, one non-M.

Mechanisms for deciding which MP goes into first shift / second shift can be worked out - but the two reps from a constituency must be in different shifts, so every constituency gets represented in both shifts. Perhaps, the MP with the higher number of votes may be allowed to pick his/her shift, and the other automatically gets assigned to the other shift. In the rare cases of equal votes, mutually agreement may decide the matter.

In the above idea, the money may become the main issue. My suggestion is that the two members representing each constituency may share the salary / perks equally.

But then, our MPs have proven their capability to vote themselves higher salary, higher perks etc. So no problem!! May be, they will actually get down to some work instead of creating ruckus Only!

At least a new set of objections can be discussed instead of the same old tired arguments again and again!

Anonymous said...

If any of the parties are serious about representation of women in Parliament, they can explore possibilities of doing so without affecting the present status quo.

Just have two reps from each constituency, one M and one F (or non-M, to accommodate Gs). This will of course double the numbers in Parliament - but if we could accommodate double the numbers of seats, without giving additional resources, in schools, colleges, IITs, IIMs etc, by adopting staggered timings and the shift system, the same can be done in Parliament - every session in two parts, half the members attending first shift and the other half second shift! Conduct the same business twice with two different speakers. So every bill to pass through 4 sessions, 2 in LS and 2 in RS.

One more rule to be adopted: The two representatives from any constituency must not be related to each other within 3 degrees of connection - either directly or through marriages.

Every voter gets to vote for 2 persons - one M, one non-M.

Mechanisms for deciding which MP goes into first shift / second shift can be worked out - but the two reps from a constituency must be in different shifts, so every constituency gets represented in both shifts. Perhaps, the MP with the higher number of votes may be allowed to pick his/her shift, and the other automatically gets assigned to the other shift. In the rare cases of equal votes, mutually agreement may decide the matter.

In the above idea, the money may become the main issue. My suggestion is that the two members representing each constituency may share the salary / perks equally.

But then, our MPs have proven their capability to vote themselves higher salary, higher perks etc. So no problem!! May be, they will actually get down to some work instead of creating ruckus Only!

At least a new set of objections can be discussed instead of the same old tired arguments again and again!

Shankara said...

As usual you are correct and this bill is nothing but women vote bank politics. How can this bill be stopped from being becoming a law.

Cant we propose a law/ amendment to
constitution that from now onwards there will be no quotas for anything. All will be based on merit.

If Laloo and Mulayam are so concerned about Parliamentary seat reservation for muslim women then they should give up their seats to muslim women as well as nominate muslim women instead of the current male MP's. In fact muslim clergy and the other muslim groups supporting them should demand this. Lets see how these two jokers react.

~rAGU said...

Feeling is same as correctly articulated in this post (<140)!!. But given that the non-sense is unavoidable are there groups trying to file PIL if so I will join and pay whatever little towards expenses. Thank you for the post.

Eric said...

Working under the assumption that politicians are much the same throughout the world:

"If Laloo and Mulayam are so concerned about Parliamentary seat reservation for muslim women then they should give up their seats.."

What?! And get real jobs?

BroadWit said...

KG,

I didn't realize you already had a great column on this issue. Agree totally that you have nailed it! I request you to write another column exposing in even more detail why BJP continues to be fooled by 'form is everything; never mind the content' doctrine of UPA.

Arun said...

Far better would be to make the political parties have 33% of their candidates be women.

I.e., make sure the opportunity to compete is there; but don't dictate the outcome of the competition.

Anonymous said...

SoniaG wants to empower the nation!
---------------------------------------------

Men and women of India, lend me your years,
Let’s praise the lord and wish the queen with cheers,
We will soon bury our democracy in grand fashion,
And start putting quotacracy in full motion.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

Dr Kalam did not find us empowering,
He sent our bill for profit back, enquiring,
We were not amused by his checking,
So, we had to send him packing.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

Mr. Shivraj Patil is the most pliant and cool,
But he was rejected by Mr Karat the fool,
We played the women card as the tool,
Presto! Everything fell in place like stool.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

The CEC has been a thorn since Sheshan,
And blocked all our plans with passion,
We moved along so far with great caution,
But no more; now we are on our mission.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

Somehow we put an admirer as the CEC,
Things started to get real easy,
Wouldn’t care if his records look messy,
Ignore such talk like the gibberish of the crazy.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

While the president’s wearing our jacket,
And the CEC already in our pocket,
Let us put the power plug in the socket,
Pass women’s reservation bill like a rocket.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

The communists never trusted the constitution,
The BJP is committing suicide as the opposition,
The rest are only interested in weird distribution,
So, we can destroy the parliament as an institution.
For SoniaG wants to empower the nation!

Amen! Brutus is an honourable man!!