By Devyani Nath:
Since time immemorial, India has been a heritage of various religions, traditions, customs and cultures. One of the most practiced traditions is the caste system. The entire society is divided into different strati on the basis of the rule of “purity and pollution”. As a result, some strati are at a disadvantageous position in order to benefit from various opportunities like right to education, right to practice a profession, etc. In order to deal with this discrimination, the British Rule introduced a statutory provision known as reservation as per which a certain number of castes were identified as Scheduled Castes and proportion of seats were fixed for them in various public institutions and educational institutions. Independent India’s Government also upheld this provision and took various steps to strengthen the status of these disadvantageous sections of the society.
Over the decades, some of these Scheduled Castes benefited from this provision and gained a lot of intellectual as well as economical property. As a result, this reservation for them became just an easy way to climb up the ladder. But at the same time, some of these castes continue to perish because of “purity and pollution” rule. In urban areas, caste system was unsuccessful in paving its way through the dense concrete forest and up to a certain limit urban areas have not been infested by this. In other words, urbanisation led to dilution of this rigid practice of discrimination. Whereas, rural areas have been devoid of this sea change. They are still haunted by the ghosts of discrimination and as a result, a large section of people belonging to the disadvantageous section do not experience the benefits of education. Children, just because they belong to a lower caste, are not allowed to sit in the classroom and even if the authorities make it a point that these children receive equal education, parents of children of upper caste withdraw their kids from the school. Furthermore, this very caste system created an economical barrier because of which children don’t have enough resources to train and hone their skills in order to get into a good university. As a result, Caste based reservation in educational institutions is a very much needed step to help this section of the people.
As it is always said, every coin has two sides, and the same applies for reservation on the basis of caste system. There was a noble cause for introducing this provision but over the years, the same has started being misused by the people. Today, most of the people who benefit from this provision can be categorized as belonging to the “creamy layer” i.e. people who benefited from reservations in the past and are intellectually and economically well off. In order to deal with this issue, a specification should be added to this reservation of economic status. We should continue with caste based reservation but this should also be governed by economic factors like the proportion of liabilities and assets of the bread winner of the family. Furthermore, the government should ensure proper execution of the Right to Education Act so that every individual receives the same opportunities to excel in life.