November 6, 2015

The Backward Way Forward- Reservation System in India

In the constituency where I live in, the previous MLA worked hard to build up parks, improve water and gas supply and facilitated local get-togethers and social living. Everyone was content and evidently he had to win the next elections too! And oops! It became a SC/ST constituency this election. Pity, he was not from the backward castes. The story pertains. A 90 percentile scorer didn’t get a seat at the top institute and the person with a 80 percentile got it, just because he was from the backward caste. The reservation system has been a widely debated topic and it just got heated up due to an agitation by one of the most prosperous communities- the Patels. Sure, the reservation system was very important when we attained freedom, as India seemingly was a country drained with social evils and caste based discrimination. But is it even relevant now? Has the Indian government failed to observe the unscheduled changes in the scheduled castes? 
But before I start raving about reservation system in India, let me make this clear that the goal of reserving jobs in offices and seats in Parliament is to bring forward the discriminated backward caste groups. The reservation system is just a way in which the government helps to reduce the discrimination against them by making them a part of our offices, of our colleges. The reservation system does not impose on the minorities but on the backward castes. If the backward castes are the minorities, it is merely coincidental. Thus, demanding for reservations just because if some sect of the society is a minority, is not in the keeping with the reason why the reservations were introduced.
Everyone today wants to be a “backward.” People deliberately tend to be a Scheduled Caste to get privileges in colleges. Parents have intentionally displayed their illegitimate grotesque incomes to get some economic privileges for their children. It seems as if everyone wants to be poor. Everyone wants to be of the backward castes or as Shashi Tharoor puts it, “It seems as if one can’t move forward until he is backward!” 
Now while this kind of a system has made the competition for colleges unfair and the elections to the Lok Sabha undemocratic, it is agreeable that it has forwarded the backwards. So should this kind of a system be removed? 
One school of thought says that now is the time when the reservation system has to be made dysfunctional. According this school of thought, the reservation system has accomplished what it was supposed to but now if these caste-based privileges aren’t pulled out of their constitutional mandate, they will make us even more caste conscious than we have ever been, they’ll take our progress with the backwardness in reverse gear! 
Another school of thought is definitely less critical about the reservation system. They reason out that a government can be effective and a democracy can stay alive only when the interests of every sect of the society are entertained. Discontinuing the reservation system would definitely lead to an underrepresentation of the backward castes 
While the debate goes on, the school of thought that I have adopted is a third one and perhaps, a more practical one. I believe that the reservation for Parliament is one thing and the reservation for research institutes and offices is another thing. I believe that in the parliament, efficiency can be compromised upon if that makes the Parliament more representative and therefore, a Parliament definitely has to be representative over efficient. Yet, I think it is alright if a college or an office is not representative. In fact, I don’t see a point in compromising on the efficiency and quality of a hospital or a research lab just to make it more representative. Thus, reservation in colleges, research labs, offices, public sector hospitals seems to be a little pointless though reservation in Parliament seems to be highly justifiable. 
But it isn’t as simple as it seems. The expansion of the reservation system has a political incentive and political parties appeal to communities basing up their propaganda on the reservation system. Therefore, considering the political interests of a political party, it might never want to discontinue the reservation system or even compromise on it. Hence, we still have a long way to go answering unanswered questions and entangling this debate about reservation system. To wrap it all up in a nitshell, once Narendra Modi told Obama that he was thinking of sending some Indians to the moon. Obama asked,"How many?" He replied,"100, 35 OBC, 25 SC, 20 ST, 10 minorities, 9 sport factions and 1 astronaut." :-) ;-) 

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