The Indian Reservation Gamble

11th February 2016 at 9:00 am

India’s sheer size, diversity and an already prevalent menace called the caste system provided a perfect opportunity for the imperialistic British Empire to follow a “Divide and conquer” approach. Independent India desperately needed a reservation system to get rid of practices like segregation, oppression, untouchability and exploitation.

          Reservation system in India was implemented with a vision of uplifting the economically and socially backward population. The whole purpose was to provide equal opportunities for all and the system has been successful to be fair. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, more people among the deprived social classes namely Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) were brought above the poverty line, compared to other segments of the Indian society, according to data released by the Planning Commission. A person from poor economic status and backward caste has today been able to study alongside privileged students in a quality college and grab a good job. People once deemed untouchable by illiterate and orthodox people are today’s budding doctors, engineers, artists and the list is limitless.

          In the present scenario, population in India is exploding at an alarming level giving rise to demand for more educational institutes, jobs, infrastructure, and cut-throat competition for resources. This has resulted in huge contention among students and job aspirants alike. Arguments from the pro-reservation and anti-reservation camps are never ending, each fiercely defending their own points of view.

          Vote bank politics are dividing India further in the lines of caste, religion, region and status. The relevance of caste based reservations has become diluted thanks to rampant exploitation of the reservation policy. Caste has now become a political strong point which is worrisome if we consider the future. In our 67 years of independence, the successive governments instead of eradicating discrimination have learned to directly recognize the caste system due to its political weight causing further divide in the Indian population. Is this the idea of a developed country we continue to envision?

          Even today there are poor underprivileged people irrespective of castes, who do not have access to basic education and struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. Such economically backward people deserve to be given an opportunity to study and “prove themselves in their respective fields” because good talent needs to be nurtured.

          Anti-Reservation supporters may say that a person’s family earning 100 times India’s per capita income is able to avail reservation just because they belong to the reserved category. Isn’t this exploitation and injustice? What about all the economically backward people belonging to the general category? The answer to these questions is that today’s policy is against fair competition and is often being misused. But, it is to be observed that though social discrimination has drastically reduced in cities, the scene has remained more or less the same in rural India. Even after these many years of reservation quotas, though people have attained parity in living status, it is a fact that discrimination based on caste has still remained rooted in many parts of the country. And yes, the economically backward sections belonging to the unreserved category are facing injustice too.

          Apart from this, given that half of the rural population does not come under the tax purview and the no of parameters to be considered such as huge population, and extent of corruption it is almost nearly impossible to fairly identify people based only on their economic status and ensure that only they get the right to reservations. So, it would be fair to at least revoke reservation for people who have benefited from the reservation policy. One may ask as to why should a person who has already attained economic parity and has access to decent amenities to lead a decent life be given reservation further so that his children and grandchildren enjoy the same special status? True, that is the reason the creamy layer concept has to be taken more seriously in every category be it SC/ST/BC/OBC and what not but, no one dares to talk about it since it is politically very sensitive.

          Newer problems are arising where even other castes that were till date under non-reserved category are lobbying for inclusion of their caste in the reserved category. If you refer the Annual Report of National Commission for Backward Classes 2013-14, you can see that the total number of centrally listed OBC as on 31st Mar, 2014 stands at 2416. Please note that this number was 1257 which was around 52% of the population when the Mandal Commission was constituted in 1979. To make things worse, a government panel has recently recommended 27 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for candidates belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC).

        Slowly and gradually it is the people’s mindset that should change. People should stop identifying themselves with their caste and give up their false sense of egos and false pride. The reservation policy has to come to an end someday, else there would come a day where justice, liberty, equality and fraternity would cease to make sense in India and people from various castes will vigorously fight for reservation citing all kinds of reasons and the caste divide will deepen more and more. People have to understand that societal stratification and inequality have to come to an end before thinking about abolishing reservations. Equality makes no sense when people identify themselves as inferior or superior based on their birth! This stupidity has to end!

          It is true that every person has the right to equality and the current version of the reservation system has to be amended to do justice to its original vision and plan. Wouldn’t you love to see a day where there is no more divide based on caste, religion and a person born in this country would be known just as an Indian National? Some may say that this is just a dream and a person who thinks this is possible should come to terms with reality.

           Well, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once said “You have to Dream before your Dreams can come true”.