Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Women's Reservation, An Illusion!

To all the people who were hopeful that we will have a constitutional provision to improve the position of women in our democracy, things are looking a bit gloomy for now. When the Women's reservation bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid trans-party cooperation, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat coming together to get justice for womanhood, there was light at the end of the tunnel.Women have never had such dominating presence in the echelons of power with a President, Opposition Leader, the Guiding force behind the ruling party and more from the weaker sex. With maverick politicians in the regional parties out in the open protesting the bill in its original form and recommending watering down amendments, the bill looks a distant dream.

The history of women's reservation dates back to the Panchayati Raj Act of 1992 which provides for 33% reservation in local self-governance. Then the Deva Gowda Govt in 1996 proposed women’s reservation in a similar form, which was followed by another ambitious attempt by IK Gujaral which was all stalled at its birth. The women’s reservation bill proposes to provide reservation of 33 % in the parliament, state legislature and local bodies. The reserved seats for women will be rotated in every two terms and the SC/ST reservation will mandate 33 % reservation for women within its fold. The proposal is only for a pilot period of 15 years.

Why do we need women’s reservation? The arguments for and against are various but one aspect that can be quiet compelling is our relative performance with regard to gender empowerment. You will be surprised to hear that women in India is far behind their equals in Pakistan and Bangladesh and is ahead of only countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia. We consider ourselves modern when the representation of women in the parliament, in higher education, in the corporate sector is abysmal. The number of women who die during pregnancy and girls who do not complete schooling is alarming.

So is reservation a panacea to all the ills that the women in the country is suffering from, not likely but it could be a good start. Better representation will pave way for more sensible law making, more empowerment and more development to the country. But there are inherent flaws in the current proposal which is ambiguous in terms of reservation for women from backward classes; it will lead to proxy candidates in the form of politician’s kith and kin contesting. The proposal to rotate seats after two terms will not let to develop a relationship between the candidate and the constituency. The fate of the pilot period could be similar to the 10 year threshold kept for SC/ST reservation which continues even today.

Another alternative to the cumbersome Women’s reservation bill is to bring changes in the people representation act making it compulsory of political parties to yield 33% percentage of its candidate, women to maintain the party’s registration. There has to be some amendments to the structure of the houses as the current strength of 545 members in the parliament is based on the 1971 population which is actually half of the current population. More representation will let us yield more people which will to certain extend thwart the opposition put forward by the dissidents. The opposition is mainly arising out of fear of losing sitting seats and lack of future opportunities to contest.

Let’s further look at the case of Pakistan, they have reserved 60 seats for women in the 360-member National Assembly and 17 in the 100-member Senate with a view to empower women. According to a report, 42 percent of private member bills, 27 percent of questions and 24 percent of resolutions in parliament came from women parliamentarians. If this can happen in the socially medieval (as perceived by most of us) so what’s stopping us from taking the plunge.

At least like what someone said “If all the countries in the world were ruled by women, we wouldn't have any war, just a bunch of countries who don't speak to each other” It might lead to an end of the boisterous cacophony and all the drama prevalent in our parliament.

Ps. The post was written in June 2011, and some of the examples used in context are based on that time frame.

Monday, 5 August 2013

How 11 Indians Pulled off The Impossible! A Book Review

Book: Making Breakthrough Innovations Happen
Author: Porus Munshi
Genre: Business/Innovation/Entrepreneurship

This is another interesting book that you may find compelling to read. A collection of case studies, well analysed and presented.

Few of the Case studies which really caught my fancy are
  • Transformation of Surat from the filthiest city into the second cleanest town within two years, reducing the number of malaria deaths from 20,000 to 0 in just twenty months, a case of miracle urban transformation.
  • Trichy Police implementing community policing and reducing crime rates by an astounding 60% and managing a city of 3 million people with 260 constables, a case study on how the police can manage community with friendliness rather than force.
  • How titan beat the Swiss in their own field of expertise by developing the thinnest watch Titan Edge.
    The rest are about ITC, CavinKare Su-kam etc. The book has good flow to it bringing out interesting details and how the same can be used by us in ordinary situation. This is a must read for The few us who still believe we can change, we can make things happen and that nothing is impossible as such.
The book is very inspiring and can give you some good case studies to substantiate your arguments.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Contemporary Relevance of Gandhian Doctrines

- By Abraham Cyril

“Generations to come, it may well be, scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” - Albert Einstein on Gandhi

During the tumultuous period of the first half of the previous century, where power mainly relied on violence and its sustenance, Gandhiji had an old fashioned respect for his own calling. He knew what it was he was doing. Another Gandhijayanti has passed with not much of attention being given, but the ever increasing relevance of Mahatma and his doctrines both inside and outside the country has forced the author to go for a re-visit and contemporary analysis of the Gandhian doctrines. Gandhi never believed in the establishment of any "ism" in his name. Yet, Gandhian core values of what Kripalani has termed the "Gandhian Way" stands out as a distinct ideology of non-violence and peace. Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement and later President of Poland, observed during his visit to New Delhi that when we fought with violence we failed, but when we fought with non-violence we succeeded.

The unfettered commitment towards the religious scriptures had paved way for Gandhiji in developing his universal concepts of Satyagraha and non-violence. Gandhiji was much prophetical in declaring that unity in diversity is not a theoretical proposition but a practical reality. Respect for each nation; be it USA or Libya, China or Pakistan, respect for each language; displayed by the diversities within the country, respect for each political system - all these are the lessons of Indian democracy. Cooperation and coexistence are what the world needs today. He suggested that all human activities in the administrative domain should be need-centric and not greed-centric. This has direct link to Sustainable development - the need of the hour. Gandhi laid out an important foundational principle in defining the recently much talked about concept of Governance, where he emphasized on the sovereignty of the people over the sovereignty of the state by establishing Swaraj; which was totally people centric and participation centric. The existing governance setup is so complex that a common man will always require a support system just to approach the government or administration. In his framework of governance, the village will be managed by a panchayat which will be a living political entity. These panchayats will be voluntarily associated by an ever widening circle of such village republics. It is not an apex sustained by the bottom, but an oceanic circle where the centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the circle of villages and so on. In this dynamic process, the individual must move from consuming to conserving, spending to saving and depleting resources to sustaining them.

In the world scenario as mentioned Gandhism or the modern Gandhigiri can be the real problem solver. Conflicts between the nations can be resolved by Gandhian methods; new institutional arrangements or by altering behaviour of the concerned states, initiation of Confidence Building Measures, use of Track-II diplomacy, etc which can open new vistas for durable peace. Trusteeship system envisaged by Gandhiji wherein the rich could contribute for the wellbeing of the deprived sections of humanity. This can also mitigate the demand of a New International Economic Order. Further, Gandhism believes in unilateral disarmament. Change in the perception of terrorism, i.e, seeing it as a socio-psychological problem and changing the attributional errors of the fundamentalist and transforming such individuals is inevitable.

Having discussed the international relevance it will be highly unfair if we ignore the recent upsurge of Gandhian values and methodology in India during the movement, India against corruption or better known as Anna Hazare movement. If we apply Gandhian conception of democracy and freedom, all criticisms against Anna's movements would seem most unfair and unjust. After all, by democracy Gandhi never meant once every five years phenomenon; he regarded it as a continuous process of people's active involvement in all spheres of decision-making, though it necessarily won't give a freehand for making a mockery of Gandhian methodology of Satyagraha and extending it to Fast(s)-unto death in terms of hours or days at best. Corruption being a inimical menace; what was seen was the cathartic release of pent-up feelings of the people of both the emerging India and the protesting Bharat. Time will say the degree of Gandhian nature of Hazare movement, as some of late deviations are already being observed. Any visible change to eradicate corruption in the country will be a tribute to Gandhiji whether it is Anna Hazare movement or the ruling establishment's timely response to the cause. But, the fact of the matter is that Gandhism portrays the real Zeitgeist.