Remember the man who with his sheer eloquence, brevity and elan, amassed an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014? No prizes for guessing this one. A year later, a 21-year-old man belonging to that very state has stalled all activities, grabbed the attention of media, political parties and people alike, garnering huge support much like our PM. The only difference being, their mission and age. I am talking about Hardik Patel, the face of the Patels of Gujarat. His demand: OBC category to Patel community.
This may seem as just another attempt to thwart the normal functioning in the state, malign the ruling party, etc., in retrospect this agitation, echoes a more serious concern with the youth-Reservations. With a slight perspicacious approach, one can comprehend that the reservation system of the 50s need to be revamped. While the policy has worked well for vote bank politics, it fails to serve the purpose envisioned by its founders decades ago- inclusion of the lesser privileged and ignored sections of the society in the mainstream economy. The present system attempts at providing reservations for higher studies, colleges, jobs, and other aspects to SC/ST/OBC. However, the creamy layer, the people with a better economic status, use it for their advantage thus robbing the people in need of their deserved opportunities. This disparity in economic status pervades all sections of the society. Often the rich people from the reserved categories take undue advantage of these policies and the poor ones of the marginalized sections remain bereft of all opportunities. What Hardik wants is a reservation for the Patels, even when most are affluent, and drivers of economic growth in the state. Despite the wealth, many of them lose out on jobs and educational opportunities due to the reservation. This led to a frustration among the youth of the community which ultimately found a voice in Hardik. What is to be noted here is that today it is just a one-man-show, but with the passage of time, the repressed anger and frustration among the youth may spread and lead to a nationwide conflagration of protest and unrest. Soon the Jats, the Gujjars and other communities exempted from the policies will start their own protests. All this would lead to severe caste violence and India will stand a divided country.
The need of the hour is to do away with the old system and instead incorporate a system based on economic differences. The reservation should exclude the extreme creamy layer, and include the poorest of the poor, who are neglected despite all the provisions. It should focus on their ability building and education in primary schools. Unless the poor can be educated and made self-sufficient, granting reservation only in universities and jobs will not suffice. Although Hardik Patel is protesting for including only his community in the OBC category, despite the Patels being one of the wealthier sections of the society, this agitation underscores the need for a change all the more clear. Not acting timely would lead to increased animosity among all the sections of the society. The youth of this country, many of whom belong to the supposedly upper castes, but are from a humble economic background are left unemployed without the right education opportunities. The increasing frustration among all the youth because of this has resulted in such a unanimous support for Mr Patel in Gujarat.
Proponents of the old reservation system may argue that the creamy layer of the reserved category could only become so because of the existing policy. However, looking at the present situation of one can only say that nothing of this sort could happen in the years to come unless a major change in the policy takes place. Unless the poorest of the poor are recognised, and efforts are made to alleviate their situation, the old tactics just won’t work. I am sure we don’t want more Hardik Patels from every state of India claiming to include their communities in OBC as well. First let us get our ABCs correct fast!