The Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has brought the women reservation bill to the fore with the coming back to the power at the Centre. With the election of Meira Kumar as the first woman speaker of Lok Sabha, Congress has projected that it is for Women Reservation Bill (WRB). President Mrs Pratibha Patil has also mentioned that passage of WRB in her address to the joint Parliament session.
However, a section of Opposition has strongly opposed the passage of the WRB in the present form. They are of the opinion that the bill will strengthen the upper caste and elite rule in the country. The men of the said segment will have remote control to to use the political power through their women.
Interestingly, India has got highest 59 women MPs in 15th Lok Sabha. Now, we need to think for whom the Bill is meant? Whether poor and deprived community women will get a chance? There are a large number of issues which need to be addressed before passage of this bill.
Situation Of Women In India
Major political parties have been talking about women empowerment. The ruling alliance takes credit for their steps towards giving the highest posts to women creating history. This is a form of political vote bank. They select or elect these leaders by accident and further claim for their benefit in future. But these are accidental women empowerment. There are two examples, one is first Lady President, Pratibha Patil and another is first Lady Speaker, Meira Kumar. Neither Pratibha Patil nor Meira Kumar was their first choice. For President of India, Congress first had selected Shivraj Patil, which created vast opposition from alliance like Left and many other parties. Pranab Mukharjee was next and best choice backed by left. But Sonia didn't want him (Pranab) the constitutional top post, so the position was offered to Pratibha Patil. Other case, Congress had never thought to make Meira Kumar as first lady speaker in Lok Sabha. The first and only choice for Congress was V Kishore Chandra Deo from Andhra Pradesh. After warning from state (Andhra Pradesh) about Deo, he was dropped. Then Meira Kumar, elite dalit woman daughter of Congress stalwart Babu Jagjivan Ram was the only choice left. This is another attack on Mayawati by Congress to show as they are also concern for dalit empowerment and to get power in UP. If Congress is really working for empowerment of deprived community, Congress would have also worked for Sukka Pagadaalu, a tribal woman, ex-MLA. Otherwise, why Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had inducted her (Meira) in cabinet, asking to resign from cabinet in three days and offered her speaker post. These are politically motivated steps of Congress.
Now, there is demand from every corner of the country for Women's Reservation Bill (WRB). There is good presence about 10 per cent of 59 women MPs in Parliament and nine women ministers accounts 11.53 per cent of the total of 78 ministers. All major political parties are talking much about the need of women empowerment and to bring WRB. It will end up helping only to upper caste, elite and promote family politics more. Let's find about the bill and analyze.
Women Reservation Bill
Women's Reservation Bill (WRB) is aiming to empower women's political participation providing 33.3% reservation (1/3rd seats of the total seats) in national, state, or local legislatures. In continuation of the existing provisions already mandating reservations for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, one-third of such SC and ST candidates must be women. There are two options left before the Centre, the first one is to seek a 33.3 per cent reservation for women within the existing strength of the two houses of Parliament and other is to increase the overall strength of Parliament by 33.3 percent. This would involve amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the parties could lose recognition if they failed to provide reservation to women. The Women's reservation bill was introduced by H.D. Deve Gowda led United Front Government in 1996 and has been tabled thrice in the Parliament in 1998, in 1999 and in 2008.
Congress, BJP and many other parties have supported completely but failed to pass it. There are few lacunas in Bill, which is opposed by Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh. They argue that the reservation would only help women of the elitist groups to gain seats, therefore causing further discrimination and under- representation to the poor and backward classes. They raise the issue of quota within quota for women belonging to backward classes, minorities and the dalits. The Janata Dal (United), the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have also expressed similar views.
Crocodile Cry of all political parties: All major parties are speaking louder for the need of more participation of women in Politics, which they have never practiced. We can see how these parties were serious for real women empowerment. During this election for 15th loksabha, 556 women candidates (total of 8,070 candidates) contested, where BJP had pitched 43 women candidates (10%) and Congress even less 40 candidates (9%) in LS elections. Left parties, the self claimed flag-bearer for the cause of women reservation, had the worst record of women representation not even 5%. It shows the seriousness of each party for real women empowerment. It has also created serious doubt among public that whether these powerful women leaders from various party don't want women empowerment as they couldn't force party to give more ticket to women or they remain silence without opposing their party boss during ticket distribution.
Long protest by Women MPs across parties demanding tabling of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha
Woman is the first enemy of Women: There is a saying that the first enemy of women is a woman. Major women led parties in India like Congress (Sonia Gandhi), BSP (Mayawati), TMC (Mamata Banerjee) and AIDMK (Jayalalitha) are very powerful and respected by their party leaders and workers. If they would have given 50% tickets of women candidates, nobody in their party would have dared to oppose. They never did it. Neither these women leaders have the will power for women empowerment and nor they support for more representation of women in their parties. Without much ideological difference, they are never united for the cause of women as they are busy for the benefit of own and party. If women led parties express such kind of insensitivity, what could be expected from parties led by men?
Four Stars of Indian Politics: Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha, Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi
Reservation for Whom: The natural question comes that all are talking about reservation. But this reservation is meant for whom?
Upper Caste: By and large Indian politics is controlled by upper caste. All parties believe don't have confidence on leaders of deprived community, so parties put these candidates from reserved seats only and remaining are occupied by them (upper caste) baring very few. After reservation same thing would be repeated. The man will put their relatives on their seat and power will be controlled by higher caste women. This movement is by upper caste parties and women for them (upper caste) only and will never give any opportunity to SCs, STs and other deprived groups. Do upper castes (women) need reservation?
Dynasty Politics: There are many powerful women leaders in India include Indira Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Sheila Dikshit, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharati, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi including the first woman president Pratibha Patil and first loksabha speaker, Meira Kumar. Though highest women MPs have been elected to Lok Sabha but it is fact that most of women leaders have reached following the footsteps of their fathers, grandfathers or husbands, who are already heavy weights in the corridors of power. Most of elected women MPs/ MLAs are from political families, they have entered into politics today otherwise they would have come tomorrow. They have already reservation in their parties. They are Sonia and Menaka Gandhi from Gandhi-Nehru family; Supriya Sule daughter of Sarad Pawar, Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Badal family; . Meira Kumar daughter of late Congress stalwart Jagjivan Ram; Priya Dutta daughter of Congress minister Sunil Dutta; Bhavana Gawli daughter of Shiv Sena leader Panditrao Gavli; Dr. Jyoti Mirdha granddaughter of veteran Congress leader Nathuram Mirdha; Agatha Sangma daughter of P.A. Sangma; Mausam Noor niece of Congress veteran and former Railway Minister late A B Ghani Khan Chowdhury; Shruti Chaudhary granddaughter of former Defence Minister Bansi Lal in Haryana; Preneet Kaur wife of former CM of Punjab, Amarinder Singh. Do they (political heir) need reservation?
Elite Politics: There is representation of women in one and all political parties.The study by PRS Legislative Research based on affidavits filed by candidates with the Election Commission up to 2007 states that many women legislators are richer than their male counterparts. Over 30 percent of women MPs and 14.3 percent MLAs have assets worth more than Rs.1.5 Crore. There are complains as tickets are sold by many parties (there is complain against Congress by senior leader Margarate Alva, against Chiranjivi's brother of Praja Rajyam Party etc). Therefore, one needs to have heavy amount to contest election no matter what other quality one has. The upper caste and creamy layers will enjoy power. Most of them only talk about women empowerment but they end up working for their party and to gain political power. Personal wealth accumulations and taking action against their opposition become primary objective of women leaders like Jayalitha and Mayawati. Even lower caste, tribals and minorities women elected representatives are very rich. There will be no place for genuine economically challenged leaders. Do these Crorepati (elite and creamy layers) leaders need reservation?
Remote Control Politics – Experience from Past: After 73rd amendment, there is reservation for women, SC, ST and OBC in Panchayati Raj Institutions. All leading parties put their candidates, work for their victory and use as per party requirement. These candidates neither get autonomy to function nor empowered to work independently. Especially women representatives become completely a puppet in the hands of their husband (Pati Sarpanch) and used by them as a rubber stamp. There was news recently from Andhra Pradesh as Sukka Pagadaalu, tribal woman MLA of Congress party, who is now working as daily labourer at 64 years with her husband as daily labourer to make both ends meet. The powerful leaders and parties will behave as "use and through". Another instance is many powerful / criminal leaders after rejected by Judicial system to contest election, they will put their wives to contest like Sahabudhhin and Pappu Yadav in Bihar. One more incidence, when Lalu Yadav was accused for fodder scam, he made his wife, Rabri Devi, a semi-illiterate woman as Chief Minister of Bihar overnight and controlled the politics of state from jail. After reservation for women, same thing would repeat. Powerful Man, if they lose their seats to women, will pitch their wife or daughter or daughter-in-law and yet will keep remote control in their hand.
Women's political participation in Orissa
Orissa is a state with full of natural resource and pull of human resource, yet it is one of the poorest states in the country. The situation is even degrading, tribals are thrown out of their land, educated youths are forced migrate to other state in search of livelihood, farmers are struggling for their existence etc. Orissa has been one of underdeveloped state because of lack of real understanding of leaders about the need of the society and no will power for real development except their long speeches. The state has been ruled by upper caste - Brahmins, Karans for more than 95% time and more than 30 years by Patnaiks – Biju, Janaki and Navin (Karans).
Orissa has three major parties by and large they agree for women's reservation. But they have never practiced so, it results lone woman MP out of 21 seats in general election. These upper caste rulers (across party – Congress, Janata, BJD and BJP) couldn't develop the state in 60 years of ruling and never encouraged people's leaders to come forward. After WRB, the women from the upper caste only will come to power and establish the dictatorship of upper castes to suppress the genuine SCs and tribal leaders.
The following major steps would help for the empowerment of women.
· All parties should identify committed, talented women leaders irrespective of their political/social background (rural/ urban areas, any caste or religion) and give space for those other women who want to serve the people.
· It is very important to train them on their roles & responsibilities, personality development, public speaking and empower them at the grassroots and enables them to not only contest, but also win the elections. This trend is already started by some organisations. Party should conduct their periodical assessment to provide further training and guidance to move very fast.
· They should a women's wing. Women should be given position at different level of party organisation.
· There should be provision of only one person (either man or woman) from one family in politics to avoid family business and creamy layer.
· One candidate will contest only one constituency. Sitting elected representatives (MPs/ MLAs or district level) will have to continue the full period. If they resign on their own, they shouldn't be allowed to content any election. Like once, some government official resigns from post, s/he is not allowed anymore. This would save lots of revenue as many times, powerful sitting MPs resign and contest for MLA to be Chief Minister of any sate. It attracts by-election in two places (their MP seat and newly vacated MLA seat), which is wastage of public money and force the voters to cast their vote in odd time. Also it would give chance to many other candidates.
· Each party should have 50% reservation not 33% for women and adequate for other economically backward people. The reservation should be meant for people lived in rural areas, committed and low economic background and not for only Creamy Layers like elite, political background and foreign educated one. The nation needs genuine leaders like Mamata Banerjee, who have come up with own talent and fought lonely with powerful left.
· The nation wants real empowerment. There should be equal access to participation and decision making of women in social, political and economic life of the nation, equal access to women to avail quality education and health care, profession, social security, elimination of all kind of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child; better local infrastructure to promote technical education among women and encourage women athletes through facilities for sports and recreation in villages and small towns of India.
Many parties believe that men are more capable than women, so they (men) get more chances for political participation. Now, this is high time to train and empower our women and backward leaders to come forward. They can prove their latent not less than others, contest election and win with their own ability not favour / blessing from party bosses. There may be internal reservation in parties not less than 50% for women. The real women empowerment needs will power from all parties rather than kind enforcement by parliament. The reservation should go only to women from deprived section not to the most privileged ones.
Sanjaya Kumar Pradhan
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