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My Upper-Caste Uncle, A Civil Servant, Perfectly Explained Why India Needs Reservation

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Quite recently, the Supreme Court observed that the SC/ST Act has been misused quite often. This connects to caste discrimination. Have you ever encountered photos like the one above? Have you ever had multiple forwards on Whatsapp with details on how the reservation system is destroying the country? If you haven’t, you must be living under a rock.

People usually have different types of reactions to reservation, ranging from “you need reservation because of the oppression that the lower castes have to suffer at the hands of the upper castes” to “you need economic reservation” to “reservation should be completely removed because it destroys merit.

A lot of people seem to believe that caste-based discrimination has been removed simply by the provisions in the Constitution of India which has abolished untouchability under Article 17 of Part III. Article 17 is accompanied by the other fundamental rights which guarantee that nobody can discriminate against anyone else. Their argument is that caste-based discrimination has disappeared with this. Nobody prohibits the lower castes from eating in the restaurants, nobody stops them from drinking from the same tap, nobody prohibits them from entering the same temples as the upper castes.

I belong to an upper caste. My uncle is a civil servant, and when I was having a certain discussion with a friend who was making the same arguments above, he overheard and got a little agitated.

Have you ever visited a village?” he asked my friend.

Well, no, but caste discrimination is prohibited under the law,” my friend answered condescendingly. “Surely, those villagers do not dare break the law?

They do, and quite often so,” my uncle told him with a little distaste. “When I was a kid, I saw the horrible things that were done to them. Our village is one which is starkly divided based on caste. The upper castes have their houses on one side; the lower castes have their houses on the other side. Once, I was told to call this person, who used to work on our fields, and I was only eight. I walked over to that person’s house to call him. I will not forget the beating I got from my father’s elder brother that day because I had wandered to an area where the lower castes were living. You know that when bulls eat wheat which lies in the winnowed part of the husk? It comes out as it is, and after separating that dung from the wheat, the lower castes ate that. When the upper castes saw this happening, they started winnowing the husk even more simply because they didn’t want the lower castes getting hold of their wheat. A poor person dying for the lack of food, and this is how they were treated. I don’t know what this is, if not caste discrimination.

Yes, but this happened when you were a kid,” my friend responded. “In 1976-80.

Wasn’t that after the Constitution had been in force for over 25 years?” my uncle responded. “However, if you think this was long ago. When I revisited the village two years ago, I realized that the distinction between upper castes and lower castes still existed. They were still separated, and kids from upper caste families were still not allowed to go there. I was absolutely disgusted. Don’t you think for a moment, kid, that caste-based discrimination doesn’t exist. It’s hogwash.

But merit…” my friend said.

The same year that I cleared UPSC, two people from the lower caste of the village also got through the same exam,” my uncle smiled.

Yeah,” my friend scoffed. “Through reservation.

Their rank was higher than mine,” my uncle said with a smile. “Do you realize you discriminate against them subtly? By believing those two got through only with reservation? You cannot even claim caste-based discrimination does not exist. While it exists very obviously in villages, in the cities, it is subtle.

Caste-based discrimination exists today as well. The basic premise on which the proponents of anti-reservation operate is that it doesn’t exist anymore. That premise itself is wrong, therefore providing no basis for saying that reservation as a policy is wrong. It is a much required affirmative action and should continue till caste-based discrimination doesn’t end. They have not even been allowed to eat the food that comes out of the cow dung of the upper castes, how can we expect them to compete on the same level as us with all our privileges? We cannot, and therefore, reservation should be prolonged as long as caste-based discrimination does not end.

In light of what actually happens in villages, I would say that the SC/ST Act is not used at all. Maybe the educated elite of the cities misuse it, but what about the downtrodden people in the villages who do not even know of the existence of such laws? They need the help of both reservation and the SC/ST Act to uplift their lives.

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  1. Vivek Garg

    Nice article. Continuing on your argument. It is downtrodden and poor SC and ST who still needs reservation to come to mainstream. Bcz the caste based discrimination never died. More so, the discrimination still exists by the virue of having advantage if money and more opportunities.
    On the other hand, there are many who argue that the major beneficiary of reservation are rich SC and ST who don’t deserve to be there. Ex. Tina Dabri.
    Both sides are right. And solution lies in the middle. Removal of creamy layer of SC and ST will go a long way. Also, extreme punishment for those who make fake certificates to get reserved seats. I was shocked to know that one of my friend got admission into IIT on a fake OBC certificate.

    We should engage in such discussion rather than usual if we need caste based reservation or not. Enough time wasted on this argument. Let’s talk solution and force government to implement it.

  2. Ranjith Reddy

    Well.. He never considered the case of how economically backward upper caste families are suffering to get developed. And to remove caste based discrimination he stills argues that caste-based reservations is right. But he forgot the point that these caste based reservation are in fact developing hate towards the country among who are tallented. He didn’t consider the point where rich people of lower sections still enjoying these benefits out of law. And big thing, he didn’t consider the drawbacks of not providing a chance for a tallented to get educated in reputed institutions, He didn’t discuss the drawback of people who have more knowledge on various factors compared to others not being given an opportunity to serve the nation through administrative services. He never discussed what country is loosing on other hand thinking that they are trying to remove caste differences through this policy.
    If they though that caste based reservation is an effective thing that helps remove caste discrimination between people. He forgot that it’s been 70 years now .It’s 7 times the expected time.Which clearly says that the law is not effectively serving the purpose but in fact is harming the country on other factors.He never discussed , how politicians got a chance to misuse the caste based reservations and in turn developing the caste based riots.That Civils UNCLE isn’t worth to serve the country

    1. Pranav Balasubramanian

      Reservations are meant to combat caste based discrimation, which is quite different from economic class. Yes economic backwardness is a different issue and it definitely needs treated in a different way. But it is not at all at odds with reservation. This is one of the common misconceptions about reservations when people bring up the poor upper castes argument that it is about economic status and not about the kind of discrimation faced in villages. Yes poor people of all castes face castes and this needs to addressed but it quite separate from affirmative action for caste based discrimation! About the other point you brought up about education is an issue with our education system, which has extreme inequality that needs to be changed. As a big example, many entrance exams require private coaching which only some can afford or access. As for your point about reservation not being an effective thing, it is effect in the way that it can be. However it is not enough to end caste based discrimination and other social changes and educational are necessary to do this. Most people who make arguments like yours seem to be all too interested in removing reservations but hardly interested in removing casteism and caste. Yes, you are right, it has been 70 years and it reflects poorly on us that we are society is still a casteist one. Reservations are the best thing we have at the moment, and if not for this, imagine how much worse it would be. Stop blaming the failure to implement solutions to other issues on reservations! Social and economic measures are urgently needed to solve these problems and eradicate caste.

    2. Abhishek Kumar Sharma

      Consider yourself, The Head of State(India), you have to do for the betterment of the situation while knowing that OBC- 41% SC-19.6%, ST-8.6% constitute the population roughly 70% of the total, among them OBC-22%, SC-32%, ST-45% below the poverty line, while roughly 10% who are general below the poverty line according to stats.

      Knowing that India slow growth major reason the people from these remain unutilised for the betterment of the state.

      Your task is to utilise them for the development of the state which consists of 70%.

      Pl suggest your point I would be most happy to know the steps if better effective than these.

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