constitution

Reservations – Why it’s Essential and Why it’s all Wrong

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It is an issue which is constantly rumbling in the pits of the stomach of the country. Multiple stirs and suicides, paired with the Ruling Party’s strategic silence on the matter has meant it’s slowly working its way to the forefront of challenges faced by our Overlords. Most recently, the Censor Board banned a movie about the Patidhar Stir in Gujarat stating that it is likely to cause unrest and it will be a threat to the sovereignty and security of the country. I’m inclined to agree with this move and personally feel that the country is not educated or aware enough to handle a subject of that level of seriousness. The likelihood of the populous being swayed by simple yet emotional or violent portrayals of reservations might evoke passion and cause unrest in certain parts the country. Unfortunately, none of these acts nor movies will delve deep enough into the Jungle, that is reservation, to find the solution and solace that the country really needs.

 

Reservation is not Unique to India, its prevalent across the world

Before, we journey into the treacherous issued posed by Reservation, I felt it appropriate to brief the uniqueness of this problem in India. While reservations is a concept that is fairly common across the world, to uplift certain parts of the society that require facilitation, caste is a concept that entirely unique to India and does not exist anywhere else in the world. ‘Casteism’ was reasonably prevalent in the 1700s and 1800s in India. It was something that originated from centuries old customs and writings that nobody questioned. If someone broke the designated duty of the caste, they were either shunned or moved away from that society of people. It was a problem but not one which was out of hand, not until the British realised it could be.

 

Divide and rule was a strategy used by the British to devastating effect and the trappings of which are still felt to this day. Caste was one of the victims of this Divide & Rule policy where the Monarchy constantly gave benefits to a particular part of the society and quite vocally neglected another. This exercise was done in frequent intervals, ignoring one community while favouring another community/caste, driving a wedge between the different castes and societies in India. This vitriol channelled itself into various outlets including theatre, music, news and, the most damning of them all, story-tales to children. Is there any surprise this dislike has continued not only shortly after 1947 but even till 2017, almost 70 years after the British Oligarchs left the promise-land?

 

“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them. “

 

Reservations were meant to be for 15 years only. The Constituent Assembly was short-sighted

The most eminent, Nationalist, far-sighted group of individuals were tasked with the responsibility of developing the Constitution for the largest democracy in the world. They set-out to tackle some of the greatest challenges faced by the country at the time and set precedents for the future of India. As Casteism and offshoots of the same, such as untouchability, was rampant at the time of Independence, the Assembly felt it appropriate to genuinely adhere to equality guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights and give every person in the country an equal opportunity to lead a dignified life.

 

‘What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights. ‘

 

They felt not providing reservation for the oppressed sections of the society would only perpetuate inequality and would therefore not be true to the Constitution of India. They introduced Reservation but stated it would exist for 15 years for the specified classes of people. This move, in my opinion, is 2 of the most short-sighted decisions taken by the assembly. While I am in total agreement with the concept of reservation and the idea behind it, the fact that it was meant to be only for a period of 15 years automatically invalidates the ideology of equality. Humans by nature discriminate and it would only be a matter of time before another society becomes oppressed while one becomes the oppressor. Further, the Assembly introduced rigid ‘classes’ that would be eligible for the benefits of reservation. Another shockingly short-sighted view as, yet again, it invalidates the point of reservation itself as it guarantees reservations for a certain set of people constantly, which means they are never really empowered.

 

Needless to say, 70 years on, we have seen this part of the Constitution to be the most contentious. Repeatedly Politicians have used it as a weapon for political vote-banks and have kept these sections of the society oppressed and uneducated to benefit their political ambitions. These ambitions saw the 15 year reservation period extended indefinitely and classes of people eligible for reservation, constantly increased with the % of reservation also constantly being pushed. Despite, Supreme Court directing a cap on the % of reservation, some State Governments have still found ways to increase the reservations to 60%.

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Why is it always Reservation or No Reservation? There Exists a Middle Ground – My Solution

Reservation is essential to enable equality and growth to specific people. But Reservation as it stands is a failure and the very fact that it has existed for 70 years and continues to remain static goes to show that it has done nothing to fuel the growth of the people whom reservations has been made for. It has merely been a powerful tool for the Politicians to wield and use effectively for their vested interests.

 

Reservation needs to be dynamic. It needs to be something that can be reviewed on a regular basis and check the effectiveness. A system should be in place which ensures the right level of reservation and resources need to be directed to the identified groups of people. It needs to be measurable. But considering the diverse nature and amount of people that exist in India, is it practically possible? How are you going to identify these people?

 

I believe it’s easily possible.  We have an existing very powerful and expensive exercise that is carried out by all governments, irrespective of who is in power. The Census! Every person in India is visited and demographic details are obtained from the people of India. All the Government will need to do is expand the scope of the census, add more questions understanding the income status, wealth status and education status of everyone in the household. Get a trained representative to ask more questions about the social challenges and difficulties faced and the impacts of the same. The Census process will probably take a year longer to complete, but it’ll be a process that will be entirely worth it. The Government will have quantifiable and quantitative information regarding every citizen in India. The information will enable the Govt. to take decisions which are directly at addressing any inequalities which have been measured by this census data. All resources and reservation can be directed effectively in addressing these issues. A firmer stand can be taken where qualitative issues have plagued the growth of a certain class of people. Further, the Govt every 10 years can evaluate the impact of the decisions and resources to the specific class of people. The Govt. will be dynamic and will evolve and ration the right amount of resources to be administered to oppressed groups of people, the ones that are improving and new groups of people that might feature in the census.

 

I believe, this approach will ensure that there is genuine eradication of inequality and it will uphold the soul of the Constitution to enable Right to Equality. It will make reservation more effective and transparent and it will transform the Country.

 

‘People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities‘ – Linda Ellerbee

The Dark Underbelly of Freedom of Speech and Tanmay Bhatt

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Samuel L Jackson places reasonable restrictions on saying what

The tirade of Tanmy Bhatt, of AIB fame, about the beloved public figures Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar has evoked some very strong reactions on twitter and in the upper echelons of the Government. Needless to say, this has brought to forefront the ever raging tempest, the Free Speech debate.

India has the longest constitution in the world and this is not without reason. A fairly young constitution, less than 70 years old, the Constitution has already seen 100 amendments made compared to just 27 made to the 228 year old Constitution of the United States of America. In an almost comical and ironic, but relevant comparison, the first amendment to the Indian Constitution put into place ‘reasonable restrictions’ on Freedom of Speech, while the first amendment of the US Constitution prohibited any sort of abridgement of free speech.

 

So what happened in the 1 year of Absolute Free Speech in India?

 

Earlier, in March 1950, in Delhi, the government’s attempts at pre-censoring the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece, the Organiser, had been over-ruled. The East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949, under which the curbs were being applied, was held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In another case in May 1950, involving a left-leaning journal called Crossroads, published by Romesh Thapar from Mumbai, met with the same fate. At the time, Madras state had banned the Communist Party and, as part of that policy, prohibited the entry and circulation of Crossroads in the state. Thapar contested this ban legally and won, with the Supreme Court declaring the Madras Maintenance of Public Safety Act, 1949 unconstitutional.

 

Within a week of the decision, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, complaining that this ruling weakened the power of the Center in regulation of Press and the Public. Patel feared not being empowered to gag a Leader who was campaigning to annul Bengal’s partition (at the time). Despite their dissensions on most matters, both Nehru and the Iron Man of India believed in a powerful centralised state and decided to put into place certain controls which they could use as a device to restrict free speech in specific places. It is believed that the Father of the Constitution, BR Ambedkar, did not agree with these views but was a minority. However, he still managed to place the caveat of ‘reasonable’ restrictions that would be decided by the Judiciary, opposed to the Patel camp which insisted on total restriction which was in power of the executive.

 

Ridiculous Reasonable Restrictions Restore Ringleader Rule

 

We’re today saddled with vaguely defined hate speech, sedition and blasphemy laws that are repeatedly used on a regular basis for political ends. When people found solace in the internet, the Government sought to control the same and passed the Information Technology Act, 2000 which even went so far as to penalise “offensive” electronic messages. While one might argue that curbs on free speech are required in a country as wide and culturally different as India is, one fails to appreciate the ground reality of the situation. As we have seen in Mumbai in 1993 or in Gujarat in 2002, the state does not really seek to clamp down on free speech for such altruistic purposes. Instead, free speech curbs are used for petty political ends, banning books, movies, paintings, college gatherings and even Facebook status updates.

 

Even the last bastion of happiness has not been left alone in India. Comedy has always been an art that is liberal-minded. Almost all comedians will fight against censorship and have a way of interspersing comedy with public messages on freedom which has for several decades been a medium to reflect the mood of the public to changing jurisprudence. Ofcourse, this is something which is pure evil and shouldn’t be allowed.

Hence, in India, we’ve seen crackdown on a comedy roast hosted by All India Bakchod which poked fun at actors, directors and producers with their consent. We’ve further seen crackdown on poetry or music which capture the mood of the nation or take jibes at the ruling party; and now we’re witnessing the ruthless onslaught of an entertainer who ridiculed, on a lighter note, two famous Indian people on his personal snapchat account. This has been blown out of proportion and now the incumbent government and many political parties are urging the police to arrest the comedian and put him behind bars.

 

I personally don’t find All India Bakchod or Tanmay Bhatt too funny. In fact, a lot of their humour borders on being obnoxious and heavy handed, however, this remains their fundamental right and their freedom of speech. Tanmay Bhatt has not incited violence, nor has he indulged in hate speech. Neither the roast, nor his snapchat tirade been an attack on the democracy or freedom of the people of India. It might have been idiotic, sure, but it’s definitely not a crime. If anything, instead of putting restrictions on freedom of speech, the government could make idiocy a crime. Then again, if that is done, most of our Parliament would be behind bars.

 

Freedom of speech needs to be appreciated and put on the pedestal it deserves. Even if absolute freedom is not given in India, the reasonable restriction should genuinely be reasonable and the archaic sedition and hate speech laws should be vanquished in place of genuine laws to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India.

 

‘The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny’ – Hugo Black