Friday, August 28, 2009

Are women beggars? 50% reservation in panchayats is not enough

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to increase reservation for women to 50 per cent in Panchayats.

She had said since women suffer multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender, enhancing reservation in panchayats and urban local bodies would lead to more women entering the public sphere.

Well and good. But what powers do these panchayats really have? Can they allocate their own budgets? Can they collect funds or earmark funds for development? OR do they have to look upwards to some mai-baap to be able for their functioning.

By giving these 'doles', the real issue of empowerment of common people is kept at the sidelines. The mantra of governance in India today seems to the following:

1. Let rich and business class hobnob and get their ways around with policy making and regulation. Don't we remember the disastrous SEZ related experiments not so long ago?

2. Let middle classes be happy and smug based on some urban/metro centric propganda thrown by politicians and media centering around common themes like "India, the largest democracy", "India - a growth story", "India - Mera Bharat Mahan" and so on. Let Indian middle classes live under the illusion that they have civil liberties when all they have is some freedom of expression to voice opinions. Not anyone in middle class dares to go to police or courts when they face injustice either from state or in private matters. 95% the middle class is actually too busy to struggle with daily living issues like water, power, getting work done through government.

3. Placate poor classes by forever giving promises of development, empowerment, education, healthcare, abolition of child labour etc. Most poor have no access to state education or healthcare. Child labour is rampant inspite of laws against it. Once in a while give some high-sounding but inherently meaningless 'privilege' like 50% reservation for women in panchayats. Isn't that only means to an end? It is really not an outcome of development or empowerment by itself. That would be female literacy, healthcare, lesser rate of infant deaths etc, education for all girls etc. But by doing such acts of reservations, a kind of false hope is given that things are going to be fine very soon.

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