India is a nation riddled with social evils that are entrenched in our society. One of the most sensitive of these issues is that of caste. Caste, in India, has found its way out of the social realm and has subsequently penetrated into each and every aspect of one’s life. It is no longer restricted to rules about marriage, food-sharing and occupation but it brings along greater political implications.
The motto “unity in diversity” not only displays our strength as a country but also quite covertly points at the various problems that come with it.
The issue of reservation is one that arouses intense passion among the citizens of this country. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, often called the messiah of the depressed classes, vouched for reservation of seats for the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes in order to elevate them to a “level” playing field. With a basic agenda to eliminate the gap that existed between the rest of the population and the oppressed classes, the policy of reservation was introduced. According to the constitution, steps can be taken with a view to make “any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” Dr. Ambedkar called for this provision to last for 10 years calculating it as ample time.
However, since 1957, this provision has been periodically amended to help it stay in effect for another 10 years. Owing to the Mandal Commission, in the 1990s reservations also came into being for the Other Backward Classes which are distinguished as being educationally and socially backward. Cumulatively, 49.5% of all seats in educational institutions and government jobs are reserved for the ST, SC and OBC. This is where the angst sets in.
The idea was to bring about equality in the truest sense but it has ended up alienating the general category. This segment of the population now feels threatened as the number of seats available to them are quite limited. Although the intent is just, the implication is anything but fair to the general category. While fully recognizing the need to have reservations in the first place, keeping in mind the positive impacts it has made, there now is need to seriously question the very validity of this provision. Originally set out to last for 10 years, it has now been more than 60 years, yet, this policy prevails.
The issue that further complicates this problem is that of vote bank politics. Simply put, it means that the policy of reservation is used to appease the concerned classes in order to muster votes out of them since they constitute a major chunk of the population. No matter how sincere this policy appears to be on paper, this issue of vote bank politics is an inevitable one. This gives rise to the application of the term ‘secularisation of caste.’ This merely means that caste has now stepped out of the social boundary and has entered politics with a very significant role to play in it. Caste-based political parties have gradually sprung up who incessantly put forth their stance in a manner that cannot be ignored. Thus, politicians refuse to fiddle with it and hence it goes on.
Now, this issue has become all the more relevant as the fruit borne by the policy can now be seen and with it, its side-effects. The limitations of this ‘positive discrimination’ are now evident. Due to the perpetual stretching of its time period, it is no longer giving the desired result. The people who benefited with its initial implementation have managed to support themselves quite adequately and also gained enough for their future generations to survive. This creamy layer continues to extract its benefits thus problematising the very intent of its introduction. Surprisingly enough, the OBC population which has taken advantage should not even belong to the OBC category in the literal sense so as to say that they are no longer educationally, socially or economically backward, rather they are better off than most general category people. This is enough generate anxiety among the general category who now feels themselves to be victimized as they are often denied entry into educational institutions despite their excellent merit.
Just like many developed countries, India should provide free quality education for all and announce huge incentives and scholarships for unprivileged students as well as merit pupils. Reservation does not promote the education, rather creates harm. So, let us have unified quality education system so that the promising and real talent can get equal opportunity.
I firmly believe that reservations should be brought to a halt since it is doing more harm than good. Moreover, 60 years is enough time to lift people out of poverty and give them proper education to secure their future although its proper implementation is a major deciding factor. Nevertheless, the policy of reservation has been in place for a much longer time than intended by the one who introduced this in the first place and it is high time that the dictum of equality and justice come to play.
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