The recent debate on women reservation bill raises some behavioral anecdotal thoughts which are the subject matter of this piece. The first question to ask is – why there is a need for women reservation bill? Does women reservation really create welfare and gender equity across the various segments of the society.
Some skeptics might say if men and women are treated equally in a society, then there is no need to create a reservation. The concept of reservation could itself be a signal of discrimination amongst men and women in an idealistic, equal society. But given the way we as human beings behave it is not always driven by this idealistic situation. Men as human beings could possess ego, insecurities, chauvinism of various types that could create drive towards creating discrimination. And this can exist across castes, segments of the society including the elitist ones. Such underline emotions and behavioural traits could create a drive towards discrimination against women assuming that the state of society is not idealistic, considering the behavioural traits of a human society. If one tosses the coin upside down, then it is also true that ego, chauvinism, insecurities also exists amongst women. Then can it be the case that a reservation of women would lead to a shift of power, positional authorities to a woman who over the years in most of the transient societies of countries like India has faced discrimination. Will such reservation would really be wellfaristic or will it be a shift of power that might lead to perverse results. If one assumes that historically position, intellect, sensitivities of a woman has been neglected in our society then the bill could be a signal for infusing woman empowerment. But the fundamental question is does a reservation bill create an empowerment.
If one asks the question, what is the behavior that is expected after women gets empowered or what are the traits that a human being should develop after being empowered. If seen from that lense, one needs to see whether a reservation bill creates an equality in terms of facilities available for men, women. Does equal facility mean equally empowered? Empowerment is a much broader societal question. Equal opportunities and access might not mean empowerment. But if one analyses from a comparative point of view, the bill could reserve the right to access to basic facilities for women who might not be receiving them without a bill. But this could be only assured if the institutions that guides the operational aspect of the reservation bill works in an efficient way and creates opportunities for women who really deserve them and comes up in the social ladder from bottom. Behavioral aspects of institution, the nature of the human beings would actually determine who will bear the fruits of a woman reservation bill and whether that would actually empower women who are really in need of empowerment.
So if one summarises three questions – a) Why there is a need for woman empowerment?, b) How that empowerment is done through women reservation bill and c) What is the outcome of a reservation bill on empowerment, then clearly a behavioural dimension emerges. For instance the answer to the first question is to create an equal idealistic outcome for women in the society. But whether that will be done would depend on the behavior of institutions and agents who are human beings. So how the nitty gritties of a reservation bill is implemented by institutions and human beings in a society is a behavioural question and that would guide the outcome of the reservation bill on the degree and extent of woman reservation bill in India.
In this context, one can explore one of the options for better targeting and identification to enhance the efficiency of the implementation aspects of woman reservation bill in India. The option which is being discussed is the use of Unique Identification (UID) Card as an instrument for better targeting leading to efficiency in the implementation of the women reservation bill.
USE OF UID FOR WOMEN RESERVATION BILL:
The women reservation bill aims to ensure that the down trodden segment of the women population gets an access to the important facilities of education, health and job opportunities. This could help in ensuring gender empowerment. But the fact is if the real needies of the woman populace in the country doesnot get an access to these facilities, the welfare aspect of the bill could be falsified.
So it is essential to identify the people who needs to be empowered. The question to answer is how that identification of the people could be done. One way to do that is to use the present UID system to target the BPL population and women belonging to that segment of the society. This would help in saving some resources as no new additional identification system would not have to be created. UID scheme could help in targeting the women and would help in proper targeting of the subsidies that could be allocated to reserve the places of women. This would reduce in some ways the distortion that could be created if the reservation process doesnot create a real space to the women populace who need it. An essential step to move in this direction could be to bring in some additional features of the income levels, societal backgrounds in the ID scheme. Public private partnerships could be thought of to bring in efficiency in the targeting and final identification of the people who need reservation for their women empowerment.
As a part of that mechanism, forms could be designed by the government and distributed by the local governance units of the government at the panchayat level. Identification of the targeted population could be done through data collection by private independent agencies employed by the government. Once data collection is done those data could be used by private agencies in preparing an UID with the respective traits of the women population.
The question is whether a separate ID system should be created for this or whether the existing UID project should be merged and be used for this identification of the targeted woman population who could reap the benefits of woman reservation bill. Once efficiency is brought at the grass root in the identification of the population and the distribution of the ID cards to the targeted population, much of the distortions could be cured.
Learning lessons could be drawn from the experiences of Estonia, Pakistan in designing ID cards. In Estonia public private partnerships are also being promoted in the launching of ID schemes and in their subsequent distribution to the beneficiaries who needs to be empowered. Mobile check vans for registration, auditing and monitoring can also be thought for bringing in supervision in the system of identification. This has been successfully implemented in countries like Estonia, Pakistan. The cost and benefit implications of this processes have to be seen in our country owing to the large state specific variations. The state governments have to play a key role in the implementation of these processes and have to continuously inform the central government. Decentralization in the implementation process with a centralized regulatory supervision is required for effective operationalisation of the ID schemes that can go a long way in rightful identification of the woman population who could reap the benefits of reservation bill.
Acknowledgement – The international country literature on UID referred in this piece has been provided by my friend and colleague - Ms. Shailly Kedia.