By Biswanath Saha:
We Indians, as a society and as a global power, are becoming the forerunner among all the South Asian nations. But some regressive concepts like casteism, on which the domestic politics of India is dependent, which does not allow an individual to have a frank and free relation with the so-called ‘untouchables’ of the society, are still prevailing.
The present social conditions of the SCs and STs are not different from those in the later Vedic period. Untouchability is still prevalent, and they bear the brunt of it. Economically also, they are yet to be emancipated. Freedom of choice of profession (Article 19) is alien to them; caste-based discrimination, sexual exploitation and atrocities (as prohibited by the Article 15) are the fate of the women of this section- even naked parade and witch hunting are a usual phenomena. Constitutionally, all Indian citizens have the right to live with full dignity with equal opportunity in all affairs of life. Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution empowers the State to have some special provisions for the backward classes of the society, if their representation is not adequate in any affairs of life. For this purpose, the policy of reservation (Article 335) came into existence, which is politically calledÂ “Affirmative Action”.
In this context, the hypocritical high class is always against this provision with the excuse that reservation policy deprives them of the society and causes the grave violation of the Article 14 (Equality Before Law) and Article 16 (Equal Opportunity of Employment) of the Constitution.Â To my understanding, it is not a violation of the Constitution and nothing in this provision deprives others. The weaker sections of the society are too weak to compete with the economically elite class on equal terms. They should be brought in the mainstream first, should be made economically empowered, and then should be encouraged to compete on an equal basis. A race between a physically challenged man and a man on bike cannot be considered. The policy of reservation is not as regressive as it has been widely propagated to be. It is a type of special care taken by the Government of India, by its Constitutional obligation, for the downtrodden.
However, here we have to argue, why is there a necessity to entertain a provision such as reservation?
We live in a welfare state that is run on welfare schemes. India is a mixed economy. Although the Preamble to the Constitution describes the nation as a socialist country, we are leaning towards capitalism. Some preventive measures are being taken by the government to protect the weaker section from the exploitation at the hands of capitalists. This is why there is a provision for specific commodities to be produced only by Indian companies. It is done in order to protect the interests of Indian firms from MNCs. In all fairness, the hypocritical higher strata of the society should shout out against this rule, which is also against the provision of WTO (since India liberalised its economy). Therefore, reservation is inevitable – both in economic and social aspects.Â Now, the question arises, on what basis should the reservation be given? Whether it should be given on the basis of caste, or on the basis of economic status, or on the basis of religion? For how long the policy should be continued?
According to me, the criterion of reservation should be made on the financial standing of a person instead of their caste heredity. So far, the policy of reservation benefitted the weaker people among the Hindus only, leaving the weaker ones of other faiths into the pyre of struggle. Sachar Committee Report (2006) says, “The conditions of the people among the Muslims are much worse than average. The righteousness is that weaker sections of the society from all faiths should be brought under the umbrella of reservation and there is a need to introduce the concept of ‘Creamy Layer’ into the reservation scheme of SCs/STs.”
Finally, we can conclude with the statement that as we live in a Socialist country, we cannot ignore the fact that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening by each passing day. In order to bridge this gap, social welfare schemes like reservations are needed. However, we must say no to casteism to emancipate the underprivileged lot of this country.
The author of this article tweets at @modontanti