Recently, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat triggered a debate on reservation, and all Dalit leaders pounced at him by passing various statements in favour of their vote bank. Mohan Bhagwat called for a “Discussion on Issue” but that can never happen as BJP too has fear of loss. Meanwhile, if we look at the larger picture, reservations are actually not meant to fix caste inequality – which is an effort which all those wanting them abolished haven’t even managed to start, for all their talk. Reservations are meant to prevent caste supremacists from outrightly denying the less privileged their right to learn altogether. That it works is seen from the fury of the chauvinists over the “injustice” to them that they can not occupy all the opportunities and must share. Reservations can not end caste prejudice, but they can and do prevent denial of rights till someone bothers to do it. They have been doing exactly that. Which is why the assumed upper castes are upset. If we look at the Indian Constitution, it gave provision of reservation on the basis of class. Which is later interpreted as caste. It was considered to be necessary at the time of independence as the lower castes were discriminated in India since ages. It was believed that reservation should help bridge this gap in a short period.
The reservation on the basis of castes was proposed only for ten years for the Parliamentary/Assembly seats. However, as the time passed, reservation became a political issue and the time limit was increased again and again. Article 16 of Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. It states, there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect or, any employment or office under the state. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens, which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state. However, our politicians equated castes with class and gave reservation on the basis of caste.
The benefit of reservation was initially granted to SC/STs whose population was around 22.5 per cent. Hence, there was more than 77 per cent of population who were falling in the general (unreserved) category.
During that time, it was possible to abolish reservations since majority of population was against reservation. The scenario changed after V P Singh implemented Mandal Commission report in 1989 and gave reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBC) to the extent of 27 per cent. The OBC’s were estimated to constitute 52 per cent but they are around 41 per cent of the population according to latest estimates. Now the reservation is available to 70-75 per cent of population. This was the tipping point because now the majority population is getting the benefit of reservation. The general category people have now lost all hopes to reverse the reservation programme. Hence, instead of trying to abolish reservation, they are themselves demanding reservations by asking to include their caste in the OBC’s. Some castes which are in OBC wants them to be included in the SC or ST categories to get even more benefits.
Thanks to the judicial intervention that the reservation is capped at 50 per cent. Leaving to the politicians, we would have perhaps 90 per cent plus reservation which would have including almost all castes, women, Muslims, physically handicapped, etc.
In my opinion, all reservations must be abolished and all people should be treated equally. This should be our long-term goal and reservation must be reduced in the phased manner. However, that is not going to happen in a democracy where the majority decision prevails over the right decision. Moreover, if you ban discrimination, you don’t need caste reservations.
Discrimination is already illegal in India. In fact, so is murder. Yet, court after court is acquitting self-confessed brutal mass murderers of Dalits. There is no outrage, no pressure on the government to bring them to justice, no questioning of those exposed for providing material support to the murderers as they continue to hold positions of power. Replacing caste based reservations with those that are economic capacity based will have an extremely predictable result of filling seats with high caste poor people and disenfranchising the lower castes while pretending that this is a more just system. We are trying to get equality in terms of status but equality in terms of opportunity is being suppressed for some sections of society, to be precise that’s not sections which get affected that is the individual who is affected by Reservation; one can improve, if one has or else one is deprived.
The caste based reservation system is a inconclusive debate with no clear cut lines. There is almost little evidence that it has made a difference to the poor over the seventy years of practicing it, but the system cannot be scrapped or changed easily as the social disadvantages remain a contentious issue. There are no authoritative answers to this one, we can’t easily expect because any one who raises this issue will have to come out of power because there is no perfect solution for this till now.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on email@example.com)