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On my Bookshelf : My Favorite Books

1. Art of War, Sun Tzu

It is incredible how a book from 5th century BC still rings true today. Sun Tzu famously said, “The wise warrior avoids the battle.” For me, these words draw the line between politics and public service. I believe it is my duty to focus my energy on helping my people instead of investing my resources in the battle of politics. I often turn to this book for guidance on a wiser way of life. The Art of War is a series of teachings that can guide not just a warrior, but every human on a way of life that leads to victory.

2. Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen

It is indeed one of our greatest assets that we harbor and hone our innate ability to build and argue with such passion and conviction. Sen captures this coherently in his book that brings together the political with the philosophical, and the historical with the sociological. For the critic in me, this amalgamation of essays was a great read that beautifully captured not the contemporary stance and situation of India, but also its intellectual and political journey as a nation with a formidable diversity of identities and opinions and their fervent preservation.

3. Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

In my early days, I was introduced to spirituality, and ever since it has been a way of life. However, it was only recently that I had the chance to read this 1947 autobiography. The words of the Yogananda have guided me since. The book explores the life of the Yogi and carefully details the ancient traditions and practices of spirituality that emerged from our early land. Approaching this book with an open mind, I came out learning a great deal about ancient Indian philosophy, the practice of meditation, and the universe’s laws behind the extraordinary.

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The Voice of Our Women : My Take on Women’s Reservation in Parliament

Reservation for women in India’s legislative bodies is, by no means, a new idea. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 — the brainchild of the Rajiv Gandhi administration — stipulated that one third of all seats in panchayats across India would be reserved for women, and a further one-third of SC/ST seats be reserved for SC/ST women. A move that heralded a revolution from the ‘bottom-up’, as opposed to the ‘top-down’, the Act increased representation of women in village areas dramatically, leading to the adoption of more inclusive policies at the ‘grassroot’ level of government. Yet, such a practice remains elusive in the corridors of power on Sansad Marg.

The Women’s Reservation Bill, which sought to correct this mismatch, was proposed by the UPA government in 2008, but lapsed due to a lack of support from some of INC’s allies as well as the Opposition. It is truly shameful that the current government, which enjoys a full majority in both Houses, has not made a single effort to pass this Bill, despite repeated reminders and assurances of unconditional support from Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Sh. Rahul Gandhi.

The sitting Lok Sabha has only 66 women members out of a total of 543, which is only 12.15%; a figure that falls to a measly 11.48% for the Rajya Sabha. This is in almost embarrassing in contrast to other developing countries, like Rwanda and Bolivia, which lead the world in the representation of women in Legislatures with 64% and 53%, respectively.

To understand the crucial contribution of women to the nation-building process, we need only turn to our history. The Indian Independence movement is as unique as it is significant in the history of democratic uprisings, owing primarily to the pivotal role played by women at all levels. The roles played by freedom fighters like Sarojini Naidu and Sucheta Kripalani at the helm of our revolutions (before taking up their roles as Governor of United Provinces and CM of Uttar Pradesh, respectively), and of unsung women heroes who rallied rural populations into protest in large numbers, can and must never be forgotten by India’s political consciousness. This essential role continues into modern India as well: Smt. Indira Gandhi, a dynamic, and hitherto, the only lady Prime Minister, led sweeping reforms; while Smt. Pratibha Patil, the first woman President, went above and beyond her largely ceremonial role on many occasions. They serve as but two examples of the feats that our women achieve.

Today, as crimes against women rise across the nation, our Parliament is in dire need of strong women’s voices. It is high time that the Women’s Reservation Bill made its way through both Houses of Parliament, and into India’s political consciousness.