Thursday, January 12, 2006

My reservations about reservation

I remember when I was a small kid, I was taught a tamil poem written by a great Tamil Poet Subramanya Bharathi, which starts as 'Jaadhigal Illaiyadi Paapa' (O Little Girl, There Are No Castes!) and then I was asked to fill out my caste name in literally every application form from then on. I didn't know what it was for at that time. But as I grew up, I started to learn what it was and how polluted it has made our society into.

So, when I was reading this must-read Outlook India article, aptly titled 'A Historic Blunder, I couldn't agree more with the article's Author, Paromita Shastri. I know reservation is a very sensitive topic to discuss in India but we need to have an open discussion about it. I know re-evaluating reservation policies has led to great consequences (Remember, Mandal Commission?).

I know the existing reservation system has lot of flaws. The most glaring one is that how it doesn't account the economies of those 'disenfranchised' people. No matter how rich you are, if you belong to the backward castes (I hate that label), you can get into colleges, government jobs. Inspite of all that, for argument's sake, let's just assume that the system's been working. The system has been in place for nearly fifty years. Don't you think 50 years is enough of a time for those belonging to the disenfranchised castes to use the oppurtunities that were available to them and to uplift themselves? As the statistics show, the answer is No. The system is clearly not working.

So, now comes the 104th Constitution Amendment Bill, which was recently approved by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha which requires all unaided (read: private schools) government educational institutions to reserve half of the vacancies to backward classes. Now if I remember correctly, there was a Supreme Court judgement in August 2005 that categorically said that in an unaided (which runs without government funding) educational institution -- whether run by non-minorities or minorities -- the government cannot implement its policy of reservation. So, gee, what does our government do? Ofcourse, Amend the constitution. Paromita writes,

Despite concrete statistical evidence that quotas have not and do not work, we are back to affirmative actions on paper to satisfy all petty politicians and our conscience at the same time and pat ourselves on the back for a political masterstroke. Pity, it won’t translate into one. A true understanding of the concept of universal liberty is important to evolve into a knowledge society. Without that, we keep nurturing a bureaucracy instead of a meritocracy. The rich will migrate, as they have been doing. The middle class will now try to ape them, with vengeance. As for the poor, they will continue to suffer, just as they did before this historic blunder.

Couldn't have said it better, myself.

I wonder how would our society have been if we didn't have a caste-based reservation system...

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