Why I Think It Is Time To Re-Think India’s Reservation System

Posted on May 6, 2016 in Society

By Pillai Vishnu:

Lakhiganj_HSS50 years ago, India was highly plagued by casteism, as is evident from incidents archived in history. Whether it took the form of Dalits not being allowed inside places of worship, lower castes denied the right to education or Dalit women forced to keep their upper bodies uncovered – casteism was and is a huge blot on the Hindu culture and tradition.

At present, the situation has definitely changed for the better. As is evident through various factors, such as a larger number of people from “lower” castes gaining literacy and education over the years or implementation of laws like the Hindu code bill which allowed legal recognition of inter-caste marriages. It is also evident from the decline of Jatipanchayats, the weakening of the Jajmani system and even with the Indian democracy electing a low caste Prime Minister with a sweeping majority. However, has the menace disappeared altogether from society? No! If it were, then Rohith Vemula would have been alive still and so would be those two Dalit children who were burned alive in their house in Faridabad.

Nevertheless, there have been changes and we must praise the reservation system for paving a way for society’s underprivileged to get a decent shot at life, but does the reservation system needs to be modified now? We did not have the same problems or the same magnitude of problems we had back when this bill was passed. Shouldn’t the bill change along with the changing problems of our society?

I am of the view that it’s the government’s duty to safeguard the weaker sections of society. And keeping that in mind, I feel that reservation on an economic basis is a much more pragmatic outlook in a nation like India. Why should the government differentiate between a poor Dalit and a poor Brahmin?

I agree with the Supreme Court of India and think reservation shouldn’t be extended to post graduation courses and other institutes of higher studies. This is important because once a person is a graduate, we expect the person to be employable (naturally as the person is now a degree holder), so if any upliftment had to happen it should have already happened. If that is not the case, the solution should be to improve the standard of the universities and not further implement and enforce reservations.

The entire reason for reservation was the unequal treatment the “lower” castes were subjected to for generations, hence the help and rightly so, but once they are graduates from premier universities like IIT, AIIMS, JNU, etc. do you think it’s necessary to continue the reservation for their masters?

We shouldn’t forget, the intention of reservation was to bring equality to the society and provide better opportunities for growth. For the sake of argument let’s assume that we are not achieving that at the graduation level of education. Then isn’t the whole system flawed? If all educational institutes are not maintaining the same standards, then it’s time to establish a basic standard that these institutes must cater to. Most universities are periodically evaluated by the state and private agencies, their licenses renewed, removed and granted on strict guidelines as set by the government but if these checks are not helping achieve the quality that they initially set out to then it’s time we should re-think the entire process. However, it seems a little too much like an afterthought for a system to safeguard its weaker sections by ensuring a seat in universities which do no good to them and provide no long term benefits.

I also opine that if a generation has benefitted from reservations that same benefit should not be extended to successive generations. Reservation should not be a birth right. Such a system breeds bias and increases unrest within. So before this turns into a violent agitation, I think as a society its times to be proactive and start debates around such issues. What I am asking, in essence, is – isn’t a reservation bill based on caste further propagating the idea of caste? Shouldn’t our motive be to eliminate this divisive system altogether?

Casteism can’t simply be tackled by reservation alone. It needs a holistic approach, with laws against public boycott, ill-treatment or discrimination of sections of society and minorities in India. Caste isn’t the only evil our country is fighting today. Our nation is trying more and more each day to become inclusive by recognising and empowering those who have long survived on the margins of the society. This fight is not just of the Dalits but of transgender people, debt-ridden farmers, the various tribes of this country, the survivors of violence (sexual and otherwise) and for each and every one of us who envisions equality and an open society. Is it really fair to have an exclusive reservation system in a country that’s striving and struggling for inclusiveness?

I am not against reservations. I just think instead of caste it should be based on the economy. So the poor (irrespective of what caste they belong to) need not be alarmed as their needs will be catered to by the government they have elected to power.