The preamble of our constitution clearly declares that we are a "Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic" which provides to its citizens "Social, Political, and Economic" justice and "Equality of Status and Opportunity" (refer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_India#Preamble
). And suddenly comes the very esteemed Minister of HRD, and takes it all away!
Accepted that we need to pull people who have been ostrasized from society all these centuries.
Accepted that we need to provide them opportunities to live a respectable life.
Accepted that we need to educate their children.
Accepted that we need to help them climb the social ladder.
But, is reservation the answer to it all? I am not too sure. For starters, by providing reservations to a section of society, are we not re-establishing the same caste system we had wanted to fight? Are we not segregating society on the basis of one’s birth? Are we becoming secular and modern or are we becoming more feudal?
This is indeed a very sensitive issue. I have met a lot of people who support reservations. And yes, if you sometimes listen to them, you would perhaps find it difficult to argue. Our society has oppressed this section of society for so many years that we need to do something to help them now. If we were just to leave them to their fate, that would be turning a blind eye to the aspirations of millions of Indians, that would be mean and selfish, and that would only increase the severity of the divide and make it harder and harder for those on the other bank to cross!
We have to provide a means to help them cross the chasm – by all means. But will the bridge of reservations, by enabling people only on the basis of their birth to cross be able to serve the purpose? Will it be able to help those on the other side cross, or will it strain the divide even more that it itself cracks under its own weight?
What we need is to fill the chasm, and not to just build bridges which can only help a few millions to cross, while there are hundreds of millions waiting on the other side.
Reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been present since the country was born, and yet if we look at the profuse numbers of those who are yet to cross the bridge, we would be appalled by the state. In most cases, those who have the birth-ticket to cross, are not even aware of the privileges. Ask the guy who works in your neighbourhood tea-stall — has he ever tried writing the IIT JEE? Or AIIMS?
We need to think of what will help this guy earn a better standard of living.
We need to study how reservations has helped the country in the last 60 odd years before we try to make it more pervasive. Has the government even one independant study to show that reservations have helped a mass of SC/STs to climb up the ladder. One study to show that it will help in fighting inequalityf of opportunities. In national integration. If we can establish that reservations can help that tea-stall worker to live a better life, then by all means, we should support it. But we first need to establish that it helps him — and not just pass a law to be able to earn his vote.
On a different note, reservations are like patents. If you have a patent on building a car engine, you can not necessarily build a car since the patent on the wheel might lie with somebody else. Patent do not give you the power to productize your idea, but they let you prevent others from productizing theirs. Similarly, reservations in higher educational institutions may not necessarily enable a person from an underprivileged background to live a higher standard of living, but it sure denies admission to others.
To summarize, before we push for reservations, we need to think about the following:
- Has it worked for the subsections of society, who had the benefit earlier?
- Is is the best way of ensuring upliftment?
- Is it helping those it is meant to?
- Is it better for national integration and equality?
We need more analysis, numbers, and not more hubbub in the parliament. If after that, we answer YES to all of the above, there should be no stopping legislation to help the downtrodden. But just playing divide-and-conquer to win electoral votes, does not look like a very appealing idea to me.