Women’s Quota Bill Undermines Merit

The following article was first published in the English daily newspaper Telangana Today on 27 September 2023 (https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-womens-quota-bill-undermines-merit)

Women’s Quota Bill Undermines Merit

By Sushiila Ttiwari, MD, 7Qube Biz Solutions

I believe in Chanakya Neeti and Chanakya said, “A woman should never be left dependent on another person. Doing so may result in a flaw in his character. Therefore, a woman should be protected in the same way as you protect the safe of your house. Never trust anyone in the matter of a woman.”
Reservation Bill, to me, is nothing but a dependency model which corrupts the system.

Is it Beneficial?

While the intention behind the Women’s Reservation Bill may be noble, it is essential to critically examine whether such quotas are genuinely beneficial for women’s progress. As a woman, I feel offended that after 75 years of independence, we are looking for reservation when women are already contributing strongly to every sector, right from technology to the gig economy. What made the government sit up now and bring in a Bill to create a stir in society?

We had Indira Gandhi, the first and, so far, the only female Prime Minister of India. She served in this role for multiple terms and played a crucial role in shaping Indian politics. Pratibha Patil who was India’s first woman President in 2007, broke gender barriers in the highest office in the country. Mamata Banerjee as the Chief Minister of West Bengal and a prominent political figure has had a significant impact on the State’s politics and India’s national politics.

But we don’t want to talk about them in the current political scenario. Their contributions will all be questioned but their contribution to the nation cannot be ignored.

Let’s see more. Savitribai Phule, a pioneer in women’s education in India, along with her husband Jyotirao Phule, founded the first girls’ school in Pune and worked relentlessly for women’s education. Dr Kamala Sohonie was the first Indian woman to have a doctorate in science and was instrumental in shaping science education for women in India. Her acceptance into and work at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, paved the way for women to be accepted into the institution for the first time in its history.

In technology and space, we had Kalpana Chawla who became the first woman of Indian descent in space. Her contributions to aerospace engineering and space exploration are celebrated worldwide. Tessy Thomas, known as the ‘Missile Woman of India’, played a pivotal role in the development of ballistic missile technology.

In the corporate world, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw founded Biocon, one of India’s largest biotechnology companies, that made significant contributions to the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors. Indra Nooyi worked her way up to be the CEO of PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies.

In sports PV Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in badminton at the Olympics (2016) and has consistently performed at a high level in international competitions. Mary Kom is a six-time world champion and an Olympic bronze medallist. In wrestling Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Navjot Kaur, Pooja Dhanda, Divya Kakran. Oh, sorry, can’t talk about them. They were recently fighting for justice for women.

Arundhati Roy, a prominent Indian author, public intellectual and activist, has earned international recognition and critical acclaim. Sunita Narain, director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, is one of India’s most prominent environmentalists and has made significant contributions to the country’s environmental policy and conservation efforts. Anandamayi Ma was a prominent spiritual teacher and philanthropist known for her teachings on love, compassion and selflessness. She has inspired millions of people not only in India but across the world.

In Higher Education

Women’s enrolment in higher education has increased nearly twice as fast as male enrolment over the last four decades. As per the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, the gross enrolment ratio of female students stands at 27.3%, more than that of male students, which is 26.9%. The percentage of female enrolment to total enrolment has increased from 45% in 2014-15 to around 49% in 2020-21. The survey findings also reveal a sharp rise in female student enrolment at MA, MCom and MSc levels in the last five years.

Women have been breaking barriers, challenging traditional gender roles and proving their worth in a male-dominated society. They are now leaders, entrepreneurs, and role models for others. Thus, with women being on an upward trajectory in all fields, it is a regressive move to introduce reservations for them, which basically signals to them and others that without such support they cannot make it on their own.

One of the fundamental principles of a fair and just society is meritocracy, where individuals are rewarded based on their abilities and qualifications rather than their gender, caste, or any other characteristic. The Women Reservation Bill, by design, reserves a certain percentage of seats for women, regardless of their qualifications or experience. While it aims to increase women’s representation in politics, it may inadvertently undermine the concept of meritocracy.

Reserving seats for women can lead to tokenism, where women are selected merely to fulfil the quota requirement rather than for their competence. This not only does a disservice to women but also weakens the quality of representation in legislative bodies. True empowerment should focus on ensuring that women who enter politics do so based on their skills and commitment to public service.

For Publicity?

Is it just another Bill to gain publicity?

Quotas are meant to create a division in society. Women’s Reservation Bill only makes it more challenging to achieve the broader goals of empowerment and equality. Rather than relying solely on quotas, efforts should be directed toward improving women’s access to education and economic opportunities.

When women have the knowledge, skills and financial independence, they are better equipped to compete on an equal footing in any field, including politics. Instead of relying on legislative quotas, society should actively promote women’s participation in politics through awareness campaigns, mentorship programmes and support networks. Encouraging women to enter politics voluntarily, based on their interests and capabilities, will lead to a more genuine and lasting impact.

True equality should be achieved by breaking down barriers and ensuring that women have the skills and opportunities to succeed in any field, rather than relying on quotas that may inadvertently undermine their progress.

As Gloria Steinem once famously said, “Women are always saying, ‘We can do anything that men can do.’ But men should be saying, ‘We can do anything that women can do’.”

It’s time India took note of its women and what they can do for the country.

D. Samarender Reddy

Holds degrees in Medicine (MBBS) and Economics (MA, The Johns Hopkins University). Certified programmer. An avid reader. Worked in various capacities as a medical writer, copywriter, copyeditor, software programmer, newspaper columnist, and content writer.

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