Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Politics and Mindset of Entitlement

Last few weeks, two important pieces of legislation were taken up by the Indian Parliament. The first was the reservation of one-third of the electoral seats for women and the second was the passage of the bill to guarantee education to children.

I am skeptical of both these. Let me tell you why.

A lot has been said and written about the women's reservation bill. Any form of reservation is, to my mid, a step backwards. Instead of empowering people to excel it creates a coterie of "entitlers" (if I may be permitted to call them that). We have seen this so many time is the past through the SC/ST and other similar reservations. It does very little to impact and uplift the poorest of the poor and is mostly cornered by the people who are at the top of such groups (the so-called "creamy layer"). Since, it is a difficult political setup, no one has the courage to challenge the status quo. It will be no different for the women's reservation. The seats will be cornered by a section of women and the broad-based participation that is being hoped for is going to remain only in the hopes and dreams of people. Also, there is no empirical evidence that women make better lawmakers or administrators to warrant such a reservation. For example, women politicians like Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee etc have not done anything significantly different from their male counterparts - either good or bad. Again, this moves seem to be done to pander to specific electoral benefits in mind.

The second piece of legislation - that of compulsory child education, is indeed laudable in its intent. What is missing, however, is clarity on the implementation of the bill. How will the state ensure that every child gets an education. Will it force the public schools to add thousands of children to their already existing load of students? What about their infrastructure? Can the crumbling in public schools cope with this huge influx of added students? Will the government force a quota (again a reservation) on private schools to take a certain percentage of students from the weaker section of society? Who will pay for their education?

There are thousands of such questions which are unanswered. It gives me a feeling that this is nothing more than a feel-good piece of legislature, that is never meant to be really implemented, but is aimed at electoral politics.

No comments: