The Other Side of Caste Based Reservations

A few days back, I had a dialogue on FaceBook with Sameer , another smartie of my college. The difference is that some people use their liver to think,  some use their appendix, some their pancreas, and still some think from their bladder. For a change, Sameer uses his  brain to think. So its always refreshing to have a conversation with him. He was vehemently against caste based reservation. The trigger for his tirade was the recent initiative by our beloved leaders to provide caste based reservations in Govt. promotions too.

The problem with caste-based reservations is – people do not understand its significance at the macro level. We have a tendency to sport the hat of a victim at the drop of a hat ! The urban middle class – which dominates the news-media on our TV, which is the consumer and the creator of news – is predominantly of upper class, educated. They have had it relatively easy in life. It is they who often shout out against the reservations. Arguments like “Reservations are unconstitutional” and “Let them prove themselves” ring hollow, when it is clear that they will not be able to prove themselves without a head start. The biggest bore of the arguments is “Dude, Survival of the Fittest”. It is simply unconstitutional and smacks of the attitude of a bully – rubbishing our constitutional goals for Social Justice and Equality.

Equality Vs Justice

Equality Vs Justice

It is easy to say that reservations provide an undue advantage to the backward classes of our society. Let us look at just the past few years (decades?) of development. India has been galloping at 8%+ growth and apparently showing an improvement in socioeconomic indicators. We forget that a major massive component of our society has been left out of this boom. The adage “All That  Shines Is Not Gold” holds true only because a large group has been swept aside in our statistics.

Reservations should be seen by considering the impoverished and oppressed conditions the SCs/STs/OBCs have endured since time began. Since Hundreds Thousands of years, they have been oppressed. And we are living in cuckoo land if we think after Independence in 1947, everything changed. Even today, they are oppressed. Listen in to the conversations in any drawing room – they still smack of casteism. They are even today employed for menial and downright disgusting tasks – manual scavenging, rag picking, drain cleaning, garbage collection.

Reservations are necessary to not just provide equality, but also to fight the perceptions. They carry an emotional baggage from history, which we reinforce even today with our disdainful attitude and treatment of the backward castes. Let me provide an example : “CHAMAAR”. This is the name of a backward caste. In our current society – it is synonymous with an abuse. Try calling someone “Chamaar” and you are sure to offend the other person. Now contrast it with the reaction : Try calling someone “Brahman”. For a chamaar his caste has now become a baggage. It can only be removed if he is respected beyond his caste. Reservations are supposed to comply in spirit with our constitutional ideals. Millenia of oppression can not be wiped out by a few decades of cosmetic measures. We might suffer in the short run, but ultimately, we will have a better place to live, where all will be equal, not only in law, but also in spirit. It is only when we see them repeatedly as doctors, teachers, scientists, job-creators and scientists that the negative notions of “Backward Castes” will be removed.

It is a tall order expecting them to get seats in IIMs by clearing CAT. Ensure that they are represented fairly in schools, colleges. It is from positions of Power in Govt. that they will be able to give back to their society. The fact is – they need support from the state & the system. Look at any demographic – they languish at the bottom. Poor upper caste – there should be policies for their benefit too. But the concept of reservation has one more major role in society – uplifting the image of the downtrodden. Let the weaknesses of the system not be a reason for rejecting the system. Take steps to ensure that the loopholes are plugged. Wherever we see the success stories among the SCs/STs, wherever we see an improvement in their demographics & position in society – Reservations have played a major role. The balance of power will have to shift so that we have a more equal society.

The talented people have different avenues to prosper – the poor will have to be dependent on the system. Blaming the ills of quota system due to inefficient implementation of the policies & vote-bank politics is wrong. I don’t see how not giving them reservations will “uplift them”. And it is easy to ask them to raise their levels of performance. Especially when the ones asking them to do so have had it relatively easy. Society can be equal when everybody has a level playing field. But what you see as equal is not equal for them

With respect to the Bill, it has safeguards to ensure that the promoted person’s competency is not compromised viz ACRs et.al.

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One thought on “The Other Side of Caste Based Reservations

  1. Such a thought provoking post Tushar. Well written.

    If only all of us could understand its significance at the macro level. We find it hard to tolerate people from backward castes enjoying benefits of the reservation system in education and employment but, we often forget that they’ve been oppressed by caste bigotry and untouchability for generations by our ancestors.

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