8 MARCH 2016
Time to deliver on Women’s Bill
By clockwork precision, talk about the Women's Reservation Bill has duly floated in ahead of March 8, International Women's Day. President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari have called for reviving the Constitution (108th) Amendment Bill to reserve for women one-third of seats in Parliament and the State legislatures. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been less forthcoming in revealing whether his government has any plans to pilot the Bill through the Lok Sabha. This is particularly disappointing. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 amid obstructive theatrics from parties such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party, but also with an unusual level of cooperation among the national parties, especially the Congress, which was leading the United Progressive Alliance government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Thereafter they could not - or would not - overcome similar odds in the Lok Sabha to deliver on their stated support for the Bill. Six years on, Mr. Modi's BJP commands a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. It is therefore in a position not only to get the Bill passed by mopping up the support of just a few more MPs, but also to force the Congress and the Left into reaching out across the aisle in a polarised Parliament to affirm fidelity to a long-voiced promise. Every session of Parliament must serve as a reminder that the real stumbling block to the Bill has not been political from parties opposed to it, but essentially patriarchal within the very same parties that have affirmed support to it.
In the two decades since it was first presented in Parliament, different governments have tried clearing it but faced tremendous opposition, often accompanied by manhandling and name-calling. It is obvious that despite the pretty speeches and public posturing, the political space in the country, regardless of the ideological divide, is uniformly and strongly chauvinistic. Opposition to the Bill has often taken the form of a demand for the proposed quota to be diced along other parameters of disadvantage, such as caste and class. Additionally, resistance has been rationalised as a caution that women's quota would be appropriated by relatives and proxies of powerful politicians, neatly ignoring the fact that such a reality could well obtain with regard to male legislators too. Women need to overcome gender prejudice firstly in their respective parties before entering the wider electoral fray. It is also a sign of lack of seriousness on the Bill that parties have not taken up a considered discussion of the impact of the rotation of reserved constituencies envisioned, and purposefully debate its merits against suggestions for double-member constituencies, proportional representation and mandatory women's quotas for parties while announcing candidate lists for elections. To have more women in legislatures and the government is a big step towards empowering women in society. The experience of several village panchayats that have women as effective leaders bears testimony to this fact. Affirmative action of this kind is the best way to usher in social and gender justice.
Staking claim to Twenty20 supremacy
India’s triumph in the Asia Cup will have surprised no one. It would appear that not only are M.S. Dhoni’s men the best Twenty20 outfit in world cricket, as evidenced by their No.1 ranking, they are also close to impossible to master in the subcontinent. The win — India’s sixth Asia Cup title and its first in this shortened format — was not merely a statement of regional dominance. The India team would now assume that it has served notice to anyone who might have designs on the World Twenty20, which will be hosted in the country over the next four weeks. Bangladesh might have briefly threatened a coup in the rain-shortened final — it deserves great credit for its brave, attacking cricket all tournament — but few teams are as adept at the chase under pressure as India. The batting unit contains a mix of disruptive firepower and nerveless skill, contest-ending weapons both. When deployed calmly — with the certainty that comes from doing it repeatedly, as India’s batsmen have in the Indian Premier League — no target is safe. As team director Ravi Shastri said after the final, this is a unit that knows how to get the job done — a truism on the face of it, but, as Germany has shown in international football tournaments, one that has been coined to explain the unexplainable. In sport, there is such a thing as the ‘tournament team’. Australia is the most obvious example this era in cricket. Dhoni-led teams haven’t been far off, however; indeed the current one enters the World T20 as the overwhelming favourite.
This is not to say India is without vulnerability. As Mohammad Amir proved again in helpful conditions, no batsman enjoys the combination of pace, bounce and movement. The Pakistani left-armer’s spell was one of the moments of the Asia Cup — heart warming and eye-catching in equal measure, given his road back from perdition and the sheer spectacle great fast-bowling sets up. But it was just that: a moment. For a side to subject India’s batting, it will need more. And considering it is unlikely that India will play on wickets that assist the pacemen to the same degree in the World T20, the chances of an encore are remote. Mystery spin is the other thing that has challenged India in the past; there doesn’t seem to be enough of it around this time, however. Perhaps the greatest dangers to India’s batting comes from within: complacency and ego. The bowling still needs work; it can unravel when attacked. But JaspritBumrah and his unique action offer India a difference-maker, in support of R. Ashwin. The others will need careful handling, but Dhoni, perhaps the finest reactive captain in the game, is adept at it. The fielding moreover is world-class, so chances will be taken and occasionally created. The Asia Cup was a title to be won, but also preparation; having achieved both objectives in some style, India will be confident about what lies ahead.