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

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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.

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  1. Jitender Kohli

    The upper creamy layer of the reservation need removed to make space for the poor among poor to get this quota speedly

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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