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No Women On Top?

One billion rising – only in ad campaigns. Not in India’s policy-making bodies. Seats there are reserved for only men.

no women on top

Saw the inspiring one billion rising videos last week? Feel empowered? If only reality was as empowering.

They say that the most powerful person in the country who has a generational grip over the grand old party of the country is a woman. They also say that the Cambridge-and Oxford-educated economist Prime Minister of the country is just a pawn in her larger scheme of things. They say so much.

Going by the presence of the woman on top and our propagation of the one billion rising campaign, it would seem that at least our government would propagate the presence of women in decision-making positions. Or at least include them in decisions which would affect policy in India. So it would seem. Till you take a look at the list and composition of Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) the power houses of policy decisions and who “mans” them.

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) to decide the price band and final price of sale of shares held by Government of India in all Central Public Sector Enterprises.

1. Mr P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance.

2. Mr Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of Textiles.

3. Minister of Administrative Ministry

4. Mr Praful Patel, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

5. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)

1. Mr AK Antony, Minister of Defence

2. Mr P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance

3. Mr Kamal Nath, Minister of Urban Development, and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs

4. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of Railways

5. Mr Praful Patel, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

6. Special  Invitee: Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.

EGoM on Gas Pricing and Commercial Utilization of Gas

1. Mr AK Antony, Minister of Defence

2. Mr P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance

3. Mr M Veerappa Moily, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas

4. Mr MK Alagiri, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers

5. Mr Ashwani Kumar, Minister of Law and Justice

6. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

7. Mr Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Power

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Drought

1. Mr Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Food Processing Industries

2. Mr P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance

3. Mr Sushil kumar Shinde, Minister of Home Affairs

4. Mr M Veerappa Moily, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas

5. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of Railways

6. Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development

7. Mr Harish Rawat, Minister of Water Resources

8. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

9. Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

10. Mr Bharatsinh Solanki, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on vacation of spectrum and Auction of 3G Spectrum, and to look into the grant of licence and allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 Service Areas

1. Mr  P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance

2. Mr  AK Antony, Minister of Defence

3. Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology

4. Mr Salman Khursheed, Minister of External Affairs

5. Mr Ashwani Kumar, Minister of Law and Justice

6. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

7. Mr Manish Tewari, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

8. Mr V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Ultra Mega Power Projects

1.     Mr AK Antony, Minister of Defence

2.     Mr P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance

3.     Mr Omprakash Jaiswal, Minister of Coal

4.     Mr Ashwani Kumar, Minister of Law and Justice

5.     Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

6.     Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests

7.     Mr Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Power

And they would still say that the corridors of power in the national capital are held together by a woman.

These groups of old men are meant to take the most important decisions regarding the country’s economy and they are the best men the ruling party has in its kitty. Sadly, just one woman makes it to the elite club of EGoMs. And we all know how attempts are being made to quell her voice and clip her wings within her own ministry.  But the question is why do women find no place in the EGoMs and are not part of any policy making body at the highest level? Is there a dearth of educated, talented, sound minded women capable of taking decisions pertaining to the country’s economic health and needs?

We spoke to Soma Banerjee, National Policy Editor of The Economic Times to understand this conundrum. She said, “The EGoMs constitute of those ministers who have a specialisation in economics. However, if we see the list of men who occupy these EGoMs there is no reason why women won’t have the same bandwidth”.

If the Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia – the genius who endorsed the Rs 32 a day poverty line (with a lame defense that he had not come up with it but merely presented an existing report) – and Kapil Sibal – the procreator of Zero Loss theorem in 2G spectrum allocation – can make it to these think-tanks then a Renuka Chowdhury could also easily fit the bill. Imagine a woman coming up with the zero loss or the Rs 32 brilliance. She’d never be taken seriously again, while the men still are. The way our society is modeled, a stupid man is only stupid but a stupid woman is a danger and thus doomed to be excluded. A woman has to be twice as smart as a man to be taken half as seriously. The gaffes that some of these enlightened gents have easily recovered from (with the sense of entitlement they wear) would have taken a lady the entire term to live down. The truth is men can say foolish things and still be taken seriously. So, to be among the privileged few who design the country’s power, transport, agriculture, environment and all other ultra-important policies – a man just needs experience in public transactions but a woman must be doubly intelligent, smart, experienced and adept at her job.

Even Indira Gandhi faced that kind of sexism. After her father died, Congress party stalwarts pretty much reduced her to the stature of a “goongi gudiya” but the sons of the dynasty can be a doofus extraordinaire – yet, party heavyweights will give his most embarrassing utterances a standing ovation.

In fact, the dearth of eligible women is also a man-made crisis. The Women’s Reservation Bill has now become an albatross around the necks of most political parties, as they publicly can’t shun the proposal although not wholeheartedly wanting to part away with 33 per cent of the pie reserved solely for women. Banerjee says, “the reason that that there are so few women at the decision-making level both in the Ministries and in these EGoMs is the fact that their political representation is very poor”. Just 11 per cent members in Lok Sabha are women, matched by an equally abysmal number in Rajya Sabha.

The West is looking East to find a solution to its economic mess. At the same time it is looking at women as future leaders in financial, banking, corporate sectors. India too has not remained untouched by the phenomenon. Policy-making in economic sectors has till now remained a solely male bastion, (except for Indira Gandhi no woman has ever adorned the seat of finance minister). But, given the sorry state of affairs, it is only logical that we look towards greater gender diversity and instill feminine qualities in our policy-making.

If only men were the saviours of world economy and masters at the number games, the heavily testosteroned Wall Street wouldn’t have been in the deplorable condition it is in. If only the reckless decision making of the men and walking on the edge behavior would have been balanced with prudence and better human resource management rather than just balance sheet management, perhaps we would have enjoyed the fruits of a more stable economy.

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/88503090-gender-pay-gap-widest-on-wall-street.html#ooid=54d2c1NDqhoCtoJ-KNOr-NcY4DvCgROE

Melissa S Fisher in her book, Wall Street Women shows how women – generally associated with risk averse qualities – are helping the financial district of US stay afloat in times of economic crisis with their “mothers making family purchases” prudent mantra.

Feminine qualities add greatly to board rooms and stock markets as has been convincingly argued by prominent ladies. A more representative group will automatically make better decisions. Isn’t that the philosophy and wisdom behind democracy?

Given below is the incredible story of how two women in Iceland have been instrumental in rebuilding the country’s economy since its collapse in 2008 using the feminine model of doing business.

The success stories of the Chandra Kochhars and Kiran Mazumdar Shaws seem overdone and more like cherry-picking when absolutely nothing is happening at the political-and decision-making level. It is not enough for the ruling party to have a woman president to make women greater stakeholders in the society. One billion can rise and break into a jig for reasons unlimited but only when women are at the helm of policy-making and decisions can things begin to change for their good and for the good of the country.

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  • Ashim

    Gr8! Loved it…Will watch out 4 more such pieces!

  • garima pradhan

    grt piece of work as expected from Somi das

  • Taniya

    Now this is what i was looking for Somi Das, proud that you wrote a well researched piece that would be read by as many people as possible. Proud of you really…

  • NeerajN

    We are known to be unequal towards women. Take the example of the (the ideological masters of the BJP). Except for a lone photo of Bharatmata – there is not a single female amongst sea of khaki shorts

    • rajesh

      true 4 bjp masters……but not 4 bjp

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