Thursday, 24 September 2015


It was Jat reservation last time and it is Patel reservation this time, and believe me – you haven’t seen the last of these rallies. According to our constitution reservations are a way to compensate for lack of opportunities. Unlike the developed countries, where the access and quality of schooling, basic literacy and knowledge is fairly uniform, these factors are at the opposite end of the spectrum in India. Dalits and backward classes bear this brunt, because they are majority where these problems exist, irrespective of their economic status. Reservations are for protection of backward classes against caste discrimination, they are not punishment for upper-castes.
But this is where the problem starts.

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down reservations for the Jat community by inclusion in the central list of Other Backward Classes, on the eve of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections lays bare the deplorable vote bank politics that successive governments have indulged in. Describing the policy as a reflection of negative and retrograde governance, the Supreme Court has asserted that caste alone can’t be the criterion for determining backwardness. The majority NDA government in the centre should have taken the hint.

Affirmative action cannot be blind to present-day realities. Though in many cases caste overlaps with social backwardness, there’s a need to invert today’s approach and consider factors such as economic backwardness. This will automatically factor in caste disadvantages, as the poorest tend to belong to lower castes, while also keeping out the creamy layer. And this will also include the poor of the upper caste. Are we trying to fool ourselves and presuming that all upper caste people are rich zamindars and nawabs?

Instead of the extensive slicing and dicing of the electorate cake to serve political interests at the cost of sparking caste antagonisms and entrenching the caste system, as has been the tendency of the politicians so far, a neat and elegant solution is to make economic backwardness one of the primary criterion for affirmative action. This should open gates only to permit entry of the most distressed. Any other inclusion would be a serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the state.

No, I am not a rabid anti-reservationist. I am aware of the practice of untouchability, socio-economic-educational exclusion is prevalent in most parts of India - leading to downward spiral of which poverty is a symptom - not a cause. Caste discrimination to me is the worst form of racism. Discrimination by last name is rampant in urban areas and private sector. With all the caste based disadvantages, under privileged children expected to compete with privately schooled, internet enabled, exam coached, city dwelling privileged children need reservation, but do their rich cousins who have stayed in the creamy layer also deserve the same openings? Are they not availing the opportunities which should legitimately go to the less fortunate? When they have taken one or two bites of the cake why are they not passing it to their starving brothers and sisters? Why are they being greedy?

Out of the total population 22 percent consists of SC/ST with 59 sub-castes which do not equally gain the benefits of reservation and they continue to be socially and economically backward and in poverty. Only upper caste within this sub-castes have been enjoying this benefits. This is what people like Hardik do not like and they feel that now they deserve a bite of that cake. But Hardik bhai, reservation is not all about money and opportunities. No it is not. Even if you have money, if the social system does not allow you to do certain things, you are still disadvantaged. If you are asked to clean the school toilet, sit separately during mid-day meals, and denied job because you are ‘bhangi’ what will money do? It will not buy you social status. Only power and position will, and that is why the constitution provides reservation to them. Jats and Patels have that social status, poor and impoverished Brahmins, Rajputs, Khatriyas don’t because of their poverty. So if anybody deserves reservation now, it has to be the ‘daridra narayan’. Did the Prime Minister not say that ‘ye garibon ki sarkar hai’? The government must devise new methods and yardsticks to determine backwardness of a community and besides caste, economic backwardness should also be a factor.

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