The provision for the reservation was made considering the social status and backwardness of the people irrespective of financial situation. Now, these people were the ones who have been willfully kept devoid of basic human necessities like a proper place in the village to live, access to community wells for drinking water, access to fertile land for sowing crops, access to schools and education, access to public places like temples, a dignified life and respect in society, and the most dreadful of all, the right to proper cremation. So much so is the hatred towards these people in our society that till today, people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes find it hard to get a proper accommodation even in high-tech cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The reservation was sought for uplifting the status of these people. It was initially given for 10 years, but was since then debated over the need for being extended or not. Till today we see thousands of debates about anti-reservation. The problem is that in our country, people cry about equality, but they do not understand the concept of equity. Equality means the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities, whereas equity means the quality of being fair and impartial. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful.
Reservation works on the principle of equity as everyone in our country does not have the same status, opportunities and privilege. Thus, equality cannot be guaranteed unless everyone is treated in the same way. Equality cannot be achieved unless a poor kid has access to the same quality of education and atmosphere as a rich kid. And it certainly cannot be achieved till there is discrimination between upper caste and lower caste. Therefore, there is a massive difference between equality and equity. We can certainly aim for equality, but that can only happen if every single person starts from the same place and has equal rights and privileges.
The concept of equity helps in getting closer to equality, and that is what reservation does. It gives opportunities to people to rise to the level of the well-to-do population of the country. Reservation is obviously doing its job of pulling out people from the clutches of casteism by giving that extra push, but overall, the coverage of reservation is so small that it has limited impact on the overall wellbeing of people belonging to SC and ST category—as the reservation is only limited to government jobs.
Private sector jobs and temporary government jobs are exempt from the reservation. It is only confined to a tiny segment of permanent government employees. In our society, the mindset of people revolves around a person’s caste! While there has been an improvement in access to civil rights for the SCs and STs, discrimination and untouchability practices are still widespread and far from extinct.
Many people have benefited and risen to respectable positions in the country, but those few should not be judged for the wellbeing of the entire community. If we see a few poor Brahmans, then do we assume that all Brahmans are poor? Similarly, if we see some rich and well-to-do members of the Dalit community around us, does that mean that all of them are like that? Certainly no. A lot more has to be done.
A large section of rural Dalit and adivasi population still need opportunities, and most importantly, education. Therefore, we should not judge the problem by seeing the tip of the iceberg, the problem lies underneath, and that is, the mentality of the people towards lower castes. That needs to be changed, and everyone should be treated like humans. Three thousand years of oppression cannot be undone in 70 years. It will certainly take time until every person lives a dignified life.