Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rक्षण : India vs India

With the movie, "Aarakshan" (Hindi: आरक्षण, translation: Reservation), finally releasing this Friday (12th August, 2011), the controversy regarding Reservations has got fresh air. Whether or not Reservations are necessary, it is very sad to note that this controversy has divided the country the same way the Britishers did on religious lines few decades ago. Ironically, this has come at a time when we are celebrating our Nation's 65th Independence Day. Well, if this continues as such, it would take away the happiness out of our "Happy" Independence Day!

To set the record straight, I WAS among those who were against Reservations until a few days ago but I am NOT among the Pro-Reservations as well. Here's why the change in point of view :

Well, earlier I was of the opinion that Reservations don't actually benefit those who get it, rather it degrades the quality/standard of the institutions reserving seats by bringing about mediocrity in education. I believed Merit should be the only criteria and no reservations should be provided. I wasn't against backward classes but I felt that only the creamy layer benefited from the Reservations. So, there was no point having reservations. The major problem with Reservations is that it reduces the chances of the non-reserved students of pursuing education in a good institute even if they are "deserving" or "meritorious".

I won't say that I've flipped 180 degrees from my earlier stand and have become a Pro-Reservation activist. But over the past few days, I tried to have a look at the other side of the picture. And guess what? It wasn't good either. The fact is caste system is a social reality and we, all, are casteists in a way or the other and we can't deny this fact. The "backward" classes are backward only because they have never been given any opportunity to stand up. Sadly, even the "uplifted" or "well-to-do" sections of the society haven't done anything for them. Have YOU done anything for their upliftment? Forget about doing, have you ever, even cared about their upliftment? The answer is a obvious "HELLL NOOO" (and sadly, this includes me as well). The problem is a lack of sensitivity towards the problems of the backward classes. We talk about "equality" during admissions in schools and colleges but what about equality in societyAt a personal level, I haven't actually seen anyone being discriminated against (and many of you even might not have seen any such thing) but that doesn't mean discrimination doesn't happen. Go through the newspapers and every now and then, you'll see stories of atrocities against the backward classes committed by the upper classes. Not just in rural areas (where it is as clearly visible as the sun on a sunny day) but also in cities.... even in the Capital of our country [ See the NDTV story on Caste-War  in AIIMS and the Tehelka report as well. Recently even The Times Of India covered a story on how dalits are being discriminated against in IITs and IIMs, and how this is leading to suicides ]. Even the people from the creamy layer of backward classes are subjected to such discrimination. Under these circumstances, getting an 80% for a student of the backward community is as difficult as a 90% for the general category. We, only have to focus on our studies but the students from backward classes need to take care of other issues as well.

But is Reservation the solution to all the problems?  

Well, I'm not so sure about it. In fact, Reservations have kind of widened the gap between the different sections of society and the news links I've mentioned earlier are a proof of that. I am not sure how far Reservation is going to help them, but the truth is the people from backward classes do deserve additional opportunities to keep up with the rest. Not only the people from backward classes, but also people from economically backward classes   should be given extra opportunities.

I have been unable to think of a solution that allows the upliftment of the backward sections of the society as well as allows the academically strong students to pursue education in an institute of their choice. You may say that needs setting up of lots of new IITs, IIMs and increasing seats in colleges.... but that won't happen overnight! 
We need a solution now and it should actually work. If you can think of any such solution, please share.....


asha on August 16, 2011 at 10:15 PM said...

Personally i feel, the solution suggested by Pravakar Rao(Amitabh Bachchan)in AARAKSHAN is a way out for development of students from backward classes. His point of providing a free & quality basic education to the deprived classes will be a solution for the dissatisfaction caused due to RESERVATION. A basic education will prepare them for competition with the general candidates for further higher education. And in my view there should not be any kind of reservation in institutes for higher education like IIM`s & IIT`s.

Sushma Harish on August 16, 2011 at 10:17 PM said...

The reservations issue lands up in paradox situation always. nice write up. gr8 post.
follow me back on http://sushmaspage.blogspot.com

Abid on August 16, 2011 at 10:23 PM said...

@Asha: Seems like a good alternative solution.... don't know whether it would ever be implemented, though!

asha on August 16, 2011 at 10:31 PM said...

@abid: The discrimination issues that have been put forward by NDTV & TOI issues....might be true. But i think the underlying reason for this discrimination is the DISSATISFATION among the students due to this RESERVATION policy... Itz their anger & dissatisfaction that speaks out as caste war.

Asmi on August 17, 2011 at 4:18 AM said...

Good post. I agree to some extent, because I also have mixed views on this reservation issue. On one hand I clearly feel that this issue has been far too politicized, and made overly sensitive by playing vote bank politics to appease the minority.
But, that does not change the fact the basic underlying need of the policy still exists in India. We are still a deeply divided nation, castes only went away on paper, not from people's minds, while having an arranged marriage, 99% will still look for a spouse within their own caste, heck even sub-caste. We still think in terms of caste.
If there were absolutely no protection of reservation, than those in positions of authority would most certainly misuse their positions to discriminate against the lower castes (be it denying a job, admission, promotion, whatever), it happens even with the policy being present, so undoubtedly it would've happened without it...and most of us don't seem to be able grasp the severity of the problem, because we belong to urban areas, if we go to smaller towns and rural areas, the backward castes are still living a marginalized life, so to say that wouldn't have been discriminated against is just plain ignorant.
When a particular part of the society has been marginalized for so long and kept at bay from all developments for centuries, do we expect that just because castism became illegal on paper, that the unbenefited would be able to compete freely, equally and openely with the general public ??
The basic premise behind reservations is that those who were wronged and kept undeveloped purposefully be given a benefit to able to pull themselves up and rise above the lower strata. As a society we must be able to bear this burden . I can understand the angst people have about the huge competition in India, and students missing out on good institutions due to a few less seats, but caste based reservations aren't the only quotas we have, there are teacher quotas,sports quotas, management quotas, etc which are openely sold to the higgest bidder, and none of the people fighting against caste based reservations seem to be voicing any displeasure against these other types of quotas, I wonder why that is ?? Is it because, we all bow down to money power ??
I have to address what 'asha' said : Do you mean to say that if there were no reservation, there would be no discrimination of people ?? What about all the years before reservation, why was there discrimination then ?? Reservations, did not cause caste based discrimination, but rather caste based discrimination has caused the creation of the reservation policy, and we all need to acknowledge that. When we say that only the creamy layer benefits from reservations, it might be true, but can someone tell me how this creamy layer was formed in the first place ??? How did these lower caste people get a chance to become a part of the creamy layer (or financially well-off) in the first place, if not for some opportunities given to them because of reservations ??

In, the end, I just wanna say that yes, I do think that reservation policy is abused to play vote bank politics, and definitely needs some changes, maybe those changes could be in the form of allowing only one generation of a family to claim reservation, like if the father benefitted from reservation, his kids will be exempt from claiming it, etc, and then gradually we can reduce the percentage down to a small negligible percentage.
But for this type of strategy to work, first the caste divide has to be eradicated from people's minds, which sadly no law can do.

Abid on August 17, 2011 at 12:55 PM said...

@Asmi: Thanks and well said... You have resonated my concerns and feelings on this issue...

Even I feel that, ideally, if people eradicate their biased thoughts and discriminatory ideas, the problem would cease to exist but that's very unlikely to happen.

I liked your idea on the reservation policy... regarding narrowing down reservation percentage from one generation to the next

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