The Reservation Road

Posted on July 5, 2010 in Society

By Ruchika Joshi:

Another round of college admissions has yet again brought with it the age-old reservations debate and everyone has an opinion. The general category students wallow and protest against it because it deprives them of merit-based opportunity and the underprivileged, reserved category students face the problem of the reservation benefits being stolen by the creamy layer of the reserved category.

Based on the principle of uplifting the backward and deprived sections of the society and helping them be at par with the majority, reservation for the socially backward classes was indeed a noble concept and one which every compassionate national of this country would encourage and be in support of. We all want well for our fellow citizens and we all are bound by a code of morality. So what went wrong?

The problem lies in the conception of the idea of reservation, where instead of being a tool of unanimous progress, its faulty implementation has caused it to become a tool that propagates disparity and denies people of what they deserve. The problem lies in the failure to reckon that fault in the implementation of the reservations for more than half a century and degrading the system of reservations in order to maneuver political support. The problem lies in the fact that reservation which should have been one of the necessary means to an equal end has become the end in itself, a band aid fix to a problem of surgical immensity.

And here’s what the problems manifests as.

The major issue of caste disparity still prevails in the society and the reservations only highlight that disparity. So as the general category deems the reservations as unfair and call for their abolishment, the reserved category might see this as an effort to propel them back to their misery, thus widening the rift between the two. Also, the reservations have brought about a new problem, that of intra-class disparity. Since within a reservation, the seats in educational institutes are given on the basis of merit, the better-off, creamy layer students snatch the seats away from those reserved category candidates for whom the reservations were conceived in the first place.

Further, since the reservations are treated as the end and not the means, as they rightly should have, the bigger problem of quality education for all seems to lie stagnant. We need to realize that the reservations will help only if the education system as a whole is improved, if the number of available seats and the facilities are extended to meet the demand. As of now, even if the reservations are abolished, the demand for education far outstrips the supply.

And lastly, the implementation of the reservations raises serious questions as to its credibility. While elementary education lies neglected, how does one expect the underprivileged lot to benefit from college education?

So while the motive behind reservations is noble, its follow up has led us down. Doing away with reservations is not the answer and nor is putting up with them in their current state. A balance needs to be sought between the two. The needy and the deserving people should benefit from the reservations but not at the cost of the remaining population. Serious effort and consideration needs to be put into larger issues like that of social disparity and quality of education, which substantiate the need for reservations in the first place. Reservations can and should only be a catalyst in the quest for social equality and education for all, not the key component and definitely not the end result.