Reservations have remained an actively discussed topic in our country for over three decades now. And an even more discussed topic of higher concern is gender imbalance in our society. The beginning of this decade saw a Child Sex Ratio at an all time low of 918. This imbalance worsens as the girl child grows up and the affect is less girls in schools, even lesser in colleges and a meager number in institutions for professional education.
I belong to a middle class household and never faced any challenges with regards to education or exposure that would make me self sufficient. Instead, my parents were very particular about my education and that I should grow up to be financially independent. I also have come across households where the parents rather pressed their daughters harder to excel in studies and ensure a financially stable life for themselves without having to depend on the husbands that they might have. Yet, when I look at the whopping difference in percentage of women in top institutions such as IITs and NITs, I realize that things are far from assuring for a girl child in our country.
As a 30 plus something woman, I am further exposed to the follies of our society. I know better now that we are miles away from a dream society that gives the girl child equal rights to be educated and live her dreams. This is irrespective of the socio-economic strata. The reasons lie more in the psychological DNA. But that’s a discussion for another day. My concern today is that in a wake to bridge the gap between girl incumbents in various fields of education, are gender based reservations justified? (and please here were not discussing the third gender)
I would like to bring in three scenarios for you to ponder upon –
- Special schemes to help prepare and admit girls into defence and para defence forces
- Special privileges for girls to promote education at primary level
- Reservation for girls in professional institutions such as medical and engineering
Almost no one will have any problems with initiatives taken to promote primary education for the girl child. Infact this is one most powerful initiative to lead our society to a better tomorrow where every household is taken care of by an educated lady. But reservations in services and professional educational institutions open up a pandora’s box similar to the one that we have faced while debating the issue of reservations.
Relaxation of age limit is one way of opening up opportunities for girls aspiring to reach for the stars. But it’s an all together different thing to lower the standards of performance in entrance exams to bring in more girls to the table. For somebody who has toiled hard to get into a prestigious institution, even as a woman myself I do not see the equality of distribution by providing the girls an edge by setting up a quota.
In a statement while announcing 14% quota for girls in IITs, the Woman and Child Development Ministry said many girls are not encouraged to have extra coaching and that is one of the reasons why even those who are interested are not able to qualify. Without taking sides my only concern is that similar could be the situation with any candidate preparing for entrance tests. So many (girls and boys) do not have the resources to pay for special coaching and thus miss out on opportunities to perform better than others. It’s a pity that we have had only one Mr. Anand Kumar who too is able to coach only 30 boys every year and ensure a place for them in prestigious institutions.
The confusion in my mind has again spiked up asking whether the objective is to uplift the underprivileged (girl or boy) or to create a nice pie chart that gives us feel good diversity figures by compromising on the merit. I do not have answers, yet this Woman’s Day I only pray for every girl and woman to get a platform to showcase her true capabilities in this male dominated world. For our government, I would only say that they must device more sensitive yet robust schemes to bring every girl child to a level where she is free to fly. Leave the direction and distance of her flight to the strength of her wings.