Our Fate In The Hands Of Reservations?

Posted on February 3, 2010 in Education

Tanveer Ali:

Let me summarise what the above title says, if you are meritorious, it’s not because of your brains or hard work- but solely because of the money spent on your schooling by your parents and the environment you were brought up in. (native endowments and environmental privileges)

For those of you who don’t know, the Mandal commission was established in 1979 by the central government to identify the socially or educationally backward in India and suggest measures for their upliftment. Today, after more than 30 years of the Mandal commission and 60 years of republic India; 49.5% of the seats in premier institutions are reserved for backward categories. This is more than 60 % in some states like Tamil Nadu. According to the preamble of the Indian constitution, India is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic country. It’s indeed unfortunate that the government itself identifies and certifies people based on their caste. Well, they don’t stop at certifying, these so called lower castes are then given exclusive privileges in various sectors. The reason for this, as quoted in the first paragraph is that people born in backward classes don’t have the same privileges offered to their forward class counterparts. I beg to differ, that’s not the complete scenario now. The Mandal commission hypothesis may have been valid in that era (the 70s). I was not there then and therefore it would not be fair if I commented on it. But the current scenario is quite different. Reservations may be needed in a vastly diverse country like ours, but is it necessary to have it all based on ones caste or in some cases, religion?

It would be ideal if this reservation was based on the economic status of the individual. The central government tried to do that sometime earlier with the new ‘creamy layer’ policy, but was met with much flak from other quarters, especially the state governments. The creamy layer policy, even though inadequate was appropriate at the least. This policy excluded the creamy layer (people with income above a certain range) only among the OBCs, not among the SCs and STs. This creamy layer policy has only been implemented in some states.

Consider this scenario. There was a guy who, in the 80s got into a premier institution like an IIT and then even made it to an IIM, thanks to the fact that he belonged to a Scheduled Caste (plus, he might have worked hard-that’s immaterial). Ok, he was poor and all and the reservation policy was a boon for him to compete, lets say; with his rich forward caste neighbour’s son (who had the same amount of ‘merit’ as this poor backward caste guy). This rich neighbour’s son also made it to an IIT and then an IIM (without any reservation, mind you.) Now, in 2010, both are working in some MNCs and are quite well off. Each of them have a kid (both quite average in ‘merit’) and they both appeared for IIT-JEE 2009 and the results came out. Now, only the SC kid has made it through (thanks to reservation) and the forward caste kid doesn’t get a rank and makes it to a lesser known private college. Both performed equally (good or bad).

Now, it’s up to you to evaluate the fairness of the situation. Both these kids are rich, have attended top schools and were brought up in the same environment. So, why is the discrimination there? Isn’t this detrimental to the quality of any premier institution?

Now, rewind. Assume that the Mandal commission had recommended reservation based on the financial status of the individual. Think about the whole scenario again, and the possible outcome would have been infinitely better. Most of the story would be same. Both their sons would have a fair playing ground and the forward caste guy might have made it (thanks to all seats being open and fair). But the present scenario is, unfortunately, much different. Even though the SC kid was brought up with premier education (assumed), he still can enjoy reservation when it comes to higher education. This scenario must have convinced you that caste based reservation is nothing but a big farce, played by the politicians who happily indulge in ugly vote bank politics.

Anything, which is by virtue of birth, must not be given any weightage. The time has come to change for the better and make everything fair and just.

What say?

The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.