The Patel/Patidar agitation asking for reservation, I think, will die out soon, however the topic of reservation doesn’t seem to be dying out any time soon. India has had a checkered past in this regards and many people have suffered because of a solidified caste system. Even scientific research methods applied to show no link between caste and genetics or caste and skin color haven’t been sufficient to wipe out this age old system. I will not go into the nitty gritty of the caste system but would like to just focus on the issue of reservation for the sake of brevity and objectivity.
India, as we all know, has a section of society considered to be children of a lesser God, considered untouchable and considered to be born impure. This section has been robbed of human dignity, deprived of economic opportunities and isolated socially. When India became independent and regained its control over determining it’s destiny, the problem of isolated and marginalized section starred at the architects of modern India. There was a need to find solution for two issues a) How to bring this isolated and backward section at par with rest of the society with respect and dignity & b) how to compensate for the economic deprivation? The issue was further compounded by the presence of indigenous tribes (santhals etc.), who while having a primitive lifestyle were developed and complete in their own way yet cut off from the main stream. This wasn’t an easy problem to solve especially when caste formed the basis of ones identity.
So strong was the caste based identity that certain sections were restricted to certain jobs and were kept away from participating in the process of governance. These sections didn’t have the necessary means to acquire necessary qualifications to escape their fate or empower themselves to influence the politics to address their plight. Thus was born the idea of ‘reservation’. The process of reservation was meant to provide a level playing field by ensuring a minimum participation of members of backward and isolated sections of society. The hope was that with each passing generation, increased participation and involvement of deprived classes in the main stream would help eradicate economic and social backwardness. After many decades of implementing this policy, the question is whether we achieved our objectives? I think that the success if any has been partial and has further complicated the system and skewed it the other way. What it led to was,
- socially backward but economically emancipated group;
- socially not backward but economically deprived group;
- Socially and economically deprived group.
Suddenly it became a desire for people to become backward and take advantage of the skewed system. Also the socially backward started enjoying Political clout. Thus, as strange as it may sound political powerful-socially backward and yet economically emancipated could all co-exist. Thus now we are increasingly hearing voices of socially forward but economically backward classes as the reservation system has managed to benefit few members of the socially backward classes without doing anything to their social equality. Also, this is now seen to have been achieved at the expense of socially forward but economically weaker sections of society. I strongly believe that the whole reservation system that we have today needs to be re looked at with a sharp focus on social dignity and empowerment ahead of economic betterment.
Related topics I wrote about: