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%.
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