Everyone's entitled to be stupid, but you're abusing the priveledge.
India seems to be stuck in a reservation rut. There are fierce debates in TV talk-shows. I never knew Dalit writers can speak English so fluently. Endless deliberations continue in university canteens and drawing rooms alike. I had a fiery arguement with a schedule-caste friend, over coffee last Sunday. God, How I hate to use this terminology. Lower and upper. Scheduled and Unscheduled castes. It sucks. We stop being us and suddenly become you chaps and we!
Anti-reservations protestors have now spread all over the country. They tried everything -- hunger strike to candle-light vigil. Cops brutally caned peaceful students in many places. The government of India watches the spectacle. Suddenly a new form of activism has taken over. Reservations have ripped open a pandora's box. The muck, they say, has already spilled. Different groups are busy mopping it up. Arjun Singh, India's ageging education minister is on the verge of doing a VP singh. VP, India's ex Prime minister, let loose the mandal demon, implementing what was long-considered a political tinder-box. No wonder tempers are up. SMSes trickle in by the minute.
Reservations -- for those who came in late -- did not come from the blue. Indian constitution has a provision for bringing at par various groups, castes and tribes in this country who have been deprived equal opportunity for ages. Under the process a certain percentage of seats in places of higher education and government were kept warm -- and safe -- for India's underbelly. VP just accelerated the process. 27% seats to the lowly blokes. The ball was set rolling. Many thought that justice was finally served, piping hot. It will square off many scars, I mused.
Many benefitted. Good. The country is still in deep schisms. Castist, superstitious kinds. Stones on fingers, hypocitical, absolute-hatred for people other than their own. We can't marry them because they are lower-bred Hindus. 'Our caste is higher than yours' is entrenched in the pshyches of millions. Uneducated and educated alike. I guess a small % of modern public school-educated generation-X think otherwise. The lower-caste still cannot make it to good primary education, decent colleges and are looked down upon by the high-end society. So trying to bring about a uniformity through an affirmitive action -- like the reservation policy -- was perhaps sane.
Unfortunately, thats where the buck stops. A famous maxim goes like," You can't have everything. Where would you put it? I think that says it rather succintly. The government of India, led by a technocrat, former economics professor and a champion of globalization Dr Manmohan singh suddenly decided to up the reservation levels from 27% to 49%. Now an idiot can make it out. This is politics. Half the seats to the lower section. India is a country of 1 billion souls. Where are the so-called upper-classes supposed to go? Now it is no rocket science, upper class means, only a stupid tag. You can be poor and upper class. And most people are. What about them? They also need a pat.
Not under-estimating the capabilities of the low-caste folks who make it to our colleges and universities, can they really be at par with the best. Cynics argue that tribal and lower caste students are incapable of engaging issues at a sophisticated level like those who enter through merit. What does merit mean? People ask and whether the wisdom of the current system really works, an expert chips in.
It doesn't work. The government doles out the quota-cards. The cards are used and over-used. Human beings are selfish. In India where mere survival is a challenge, the reservation card is an easy route to success, even if it means scuttling the hopes, chances and dreams of bright meritorous students. Rather than shamelessly emloying the Quota trick for petty politiking, the governmant must try and address the issue of granting these guys access to good schooling. Make it mandatory, perhaps. That will bring them at par. Simply transporting a half-baked, ill-tutored guy to a prestigious institute like AIIMS or IIM and make him share the desk with a brilliant mind doesn't make an iota of sense.
Extending reservation is not the answer. There has to be a nation-wide census and instead of the schedule cates and tribes, we must endeavour to bring in the economically unpriveledged classes -- which includes SC/ST/Upper classes -- in the reservation net. Cancel the cards of the folks who are well to do and flaunt it unnecesarily. Limit the reservation to 30%.
Let merit arise. Let India continue be the world's talent hub. Let us emerge an even stronger, more resplendent democracy.
Hope some sanity prevails on the good old professor of Economics and his vizier with the curved stick.