Reservation- A necessary Evil or a Farce? [Part 1]
All right, before you all lambast me on choosing to write a clichéd topic such as Reservation in India, let me tell you that this is one vital issue which cannot be ignored by a blogger who writes about India. After touching upon ragging, racism, English obsession, sadism, poverty, etc, I have finally arrived at another hot, controversial topic- Reservation.
A little background information is necessary. In India, there are different types of reservations, for college seats, jobs in Public companies/institutions, etc. There are 3 main categories of recipients: 1)The Scheduled Castes[SC’s], 2)Scheduled Tribes[S.T.s] and 3) Other Backward Castes[OBCs]. It is estimated that more than 25% of the Indian population [around 30 crore] belong to the backward castes. The actual figure may even be higher, if all the sub-castes are included as well [along with the untouchables, the Dalits, etc]. A person namely responsible for starting the reservation Quota system after India gained independence was the late B.R. Ambedkar, a famous scholar who belonged to a lower class. He wanted people from such lower castes and classes to come up and get rid of the stigma attached to them. Currently, around 49% of the total seats in Higher Educational Institutes[notably IITs and IIMs] are reserved for students from backward castes. In some areas such as Tamil Nadu, politicians want this figure to be raised even higher[though for now, the Supreme court has said that the number should not cross the 50% mark]. So why has reservation caused such a hullabaloo in our country though it’s totally legal and established by the Government itself?
The reason is quite simple. Almost every person belonging to the General category opposes reservation with the view that it provides a Short-cut or free pass/ticket to undeserving people, whereas deserving people[belonging to the general category] are left behind. Politicians demand extra reservation for people belonging to their castes [such as Yadavs or Mundas]. As such there are thousands of castes in our country, and it’s simply not possible to provide reservation for each and every one separately. So is reservation simply unfair? Is it actually fulfilling the aim or purpose for which it was launched?
Let us go more than 60 years in the past. India, a country which has recently obtained independence. A country where majority of the people are poor and homeless. A country with 85% of its population illiterate and 75% of the people dependent on agriculture alone. The condition of backward castes people at that time was horrendous. They were[and still are] ill-treated and exploited by the zamindars, land owners and money-lenders to name a few. They were mercilessly tortured, beaten, robbed, raped, and made to perform all sorts of atrocious acts[which are too vulgar to mention here, but some included eating cow dung]. Most of them hardly earned anything and many starved to death. The Government thought it to be necessary to uplift these people and get rid of the social evils which had plagued them. Thus the concept of reservations was introduced, mainly to show that in a democracy like India, people from all castes, status, etc would be included in the daily affairs of the nation.
Moreover, most of such backward class people were illiterate [close to 100%]. So it was necessary to provide them with education and jobs. So after the IITs and IIMs were set up, it was decided that a portion of the total seats would be reserved for people belonging to backward castes. So how did this escalate into a problem? The answer is simple. With passing of time, many people from the backward castes managed to get rid of their poverty and join the burgeoning middle class[now rising in number]. Plus there were quite a few people who had decent jobs at present[along with a decent salary of course], with ancestors belonging to some backward castes. But seeing that the reservation stood for all, such people naturally decided to utilize the benefits of reservation for their wards. So even if their children did not score as high as someone from general category, they still managed to get a seat into say an IIT, and later in a Government job. This was the starting point of the agitation, soon to gain momentum throughout the country.
Thousands of people protested. Some formed mobs, and went on a rampage in cities all across India. Some destroyed public property. Others set things on fire and some people set themselves on fire as a mark of protest. They had one demand-Put an end to this unfair practice of Reservation in the name of uplifting the backward class. They considered it to be a specious act. To quell their anger, the Government introduced the Creamy layer system in 1971[Sattanathan Commission] which specified that a certain wealthy section of Backward castes people would be ineligible for the reservation quota. At present those who earn above Rs. 4,50,000[which was raised from Rs. 2,50,000 in 2008] per annum belong to the creamy layer and are ineligible for reservation.
Though that worked to an extent, if truth be told, someone whose father earns a salary of say Rs. 4,25,000 per annum[which works out to Rs. 35,000 per month, quite a decent figure considering that majority of Indians don’t even earn one-tenth that amount] is still eligible for quota. This is, what I believe, rightly unfair[Oxymoron?]. If a person is already earning such a high amount of a salary, then why should his child get a reserved seat which he clearly does not deserve? On the other hand, there are also many genuine cases where a person is unable to give his child proper coaching so that he can join a reputed institute. Due to the environment the student lags far behind his urban counterparts, and is naturally disadvantaged when it comes to college admissions. In such a case, maybe he really deserves to get admission. So whats the way out of this?