Tuesday, May 23, 2006

To Reserve or not to Reserve

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.



Anonymous said...

Cudnt agree more with you. If reservation is to be given, it should only be based on economic condition irrespective of caste/creed/religion.

But just pointing out a factual mostake in ur writeup. Noone died in AIIMS, it was just a rumour

Zee-Band said...

We resolve that we would oppose reservations at any cost

PS Juneja, Bombay said...

I am surprised seeing the way the police are behaving and what surprises me the most is the inaction of the government about the reservation-stir.

PS Juneja

hardeep said...

The doctors have entered the ninth day of hunger strike but the Government does not seem to be relenting.

yana, bangalore said...

Govt is hell-bent to increase quota for backward classes, Now they have asked the private sector in two years reservations voluntarily. If the private sector does not do the same within the set time limit, then the Government will bring in a law to that effect.

That will mean no seats for us general guys and no education too.
Shame congress

Asim Choudhury said...

Hi Sam!

You have perfectly captured the essence of the issue, in good detail.

I wanted to forget that I am a Brahmin, an upper caste member. But as fate would have it I am once again reminded, or rather forced to believe, that I am a Brahmin.

Being a rational creature I believe in fair play. If there is to be reservation let there be reservation in all walks of Indian life. We should have reservations in the parliament, for cabinet berths, for Prime Ministership, for primary education, for any and every queue that Indians put up in railway stations, in banks, in post offices. We should also implement reservations in private companies, in investments, in jobs, in promotions, in perks, in bonuses, in leaves, and all other areas that one can imagine. AND we can also have alternate roads, railways, buses and aircrafts for the reserved category. Imagine the high-tech 21st century and we are caught in the quagmire of casteism.

At this pace, I believe that India is inching forward to a CIVIL WAR. The table is already set.

You can see for yourself why I hate Delhi so much. Its the mother of all strife we witness in the nation today.

Gagan, Chandigarh said...

This is an excellent, balanced write-up. I love your style.

Samir Bhat said...

I stand corrected. My hands are full and I've not been reading news-reports for the last two days.

Looks like the death, indeed is a rumour. I re-tract my statement on the doc's demise.

Manish Kumar, Patna said...

There are only 104 districts in the country, where SCs, STs and OBCs comprised more than 50 per cent of the population. Rest SC/ST are 20% in number od distts. Does that mean we offer them the country's 50%

btw...a vey good write-up.

satyam s said...

asim, u need a life. whats this hing against delhi u have, partner,
we rock man.

and this is a cool write-up.


harsh, hyderabad said...

Reservations will undoubtedly tarnish the huge image that India has build over the years. We will be known (HENCE-FORTH) as a country of the not-so-bright and may soon loose on the edge we currently seem to enjoy.