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Reservation– A political or a social need?

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In August, the OBC bill (127th Amendment bill) got passed, giving states the right to decide other backwards classes. The ruling party hailed it as a landmark decision and the opposition pushing for a caste-based census. The speed with which this bill got clearance and support from every political party irrespective of ideologies indicates the influence BACKWARD CASTE has on politics. 

Growth is never homogeneously distributed. Differences remain between region, caste, religion or ethnicity. These disparities, mainly centred around caste, would be used by different groups/parties to fan emotions and pressurising the govt to increase reservations ambit. It may have a pernicious effect on society by aggravating existing prejudices. Unfortunately, we had a long anathema of the caste system that should be allowed to dissipate, not kept alive by festering it under one or another pretext. 

The founding father of our constitution kept caste-based census at bay, limiting reservations to SC and ST for 10 years. It is safe to believe that they fully understood and appreciated the extent of the curse we were grappling with, therefore carefully decided on the level of provision besides sections of society needing it. They kept a delicate balance between supporting marginalised sections and meritocracy. However, we live in a democracy where politics is supreme. People in power with different opinions or under predicament make decisions, and generations bear consequences.

In 1979 for the first time, a non-congress came to power. Opposition to Congress was the only commonality between these parties. Prime Minister Mr Morarji Desai was heading this coalition govt. His position was weak and untenable. Under pressure from the socialist section, he established the Mandal commission (Socially & Educationally backward classes). It is worth noting that all members were from OBC. They used the 1931 census to arrive at their conclusion; however, the govt had fallen by the time commission was ready with recommendations. With a strong & stable govt back in power, they shelved it indefinitely. 

In 1990 Mr VP Singh became PM, having both Left & Right as part of the coalition. He was regularly confronted by aggressive Devi Lal deputy PM on one side & Hindutva politics of BJP on another side. He needed a cause to consolidate his position. Reservation thrives when jobs & education are scarce, as the case was in the 70s & ’80s. Probably sensing an opportunity, Mr VP Singh, on 13th August 1990, announced the Mandal commission’s recommendation. However, the haste of execution stirred resentment, leading to numerous agitations drawing curtains on his political journey. These laws were eventually implemented in 1992 by the Supreme court, reserving 27% seats for OBC taking reservations to 49.5%.

Dr B.R Ambedkar once said, “You cannot build anything on the foundation of caste. You cannot build up nation. You cannot build up morality”.  He favoured implementing reservation for ten years, limiting it to SC & ST only. In the constituent assembly on 25th August 1949, objections of S. Nagappa & B.I. Muniswami Pillai believed not to restrict reservation for ten years. Dr Ambedkar did not buy it and said, “I do not think we should allow any changes in this subject. If the status of scheduled caste does not improve in 10 years, it will not be beyond their intellect power to seek measures of achieving this protection”. 

Some intellectuals call reservation social justice, thus favouring caste census. Justice means fairness, impartiality & equality. Justice would be when everyone is free to fly without any bondages, whether caste, gender, ethnicity or colour. In contrast, reservation gives wings to a few at the cost of others despite being deserving because they are from a particular caste. These people also have aspirations, emotions, dreams & responsibilities. If it was iniquitous to have caste as the basis of selection in the past, then doing the same thing now cannot be considered virtuous.  

It is unjustified to penalise the current generation for the possible oppression committed by their forefathers. The fact is that SC, ST and OBC fight for 65.5, 58 & 77.5% of seats (Reserved+merit-based), whereas a poor upper class can only compete for 50.5%. People advocating meritocracy as the only basis of selection are termed parochial. The reservation system contravenes citizens’ constitutional right under Article 16, “Equality to opportunities”. 

Thanks to the reservation, we have created a society where people are protesting to be declared backwards. Marathas, Jats, Patels and many more are influential sections that want to be part of OBC. Looking at their influence in elections, they may get OBC status

sooner or later. There is something inherent in the human condition: if certain activities benefit them directly, they will participate in the process or look another way. It may sound ironic and bizarre, but true. 

As per Minister of State in PMO Mr Jitendra Singh, of Seventy-nine thousand seats reserved for S.C., S.T. and OBC in central govt departments, roughly 42000 seats remain vacant as of 1st January 2020. In higher education the representation by SC and ST was merely 14% & 5% against reserved seat of 15% & 7.5% respectively. The situation is quite intriguing as it highlights the core issue. 

Primary and secondary education should be mandatory for all children irrespective of their caste, religion, region, colour, gender or ethnicity. Schools must be taken to all corners of India to prepare children to fulfill their dreams. 

Usually, low-income families put all available hands to work in order to survive. Youth from such backgrounds can be brought to schools/institutions only if they earn enough to sustain themselves. Many industries and service sectors can play a productive role by making it a win-win scenario. The industry would get a trained workforce at affordable cost & youth would get an opportunity to lead a better life. It would also help us as a country to progress much faster. Truly “SABKA SAATH SABKA VIKAS”.

A country with enough opportunities usually does not need RESERVATIONS.  

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