Politics

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

Will Stalin’s Response Spur a Change in Tamil Nadu Politics?

J Jayalalithaa's swearing-in ceremony

The Opposition Leader MK Stalin is seated with the general public at the CM Swearing in Ceremony

The move by MK Stalin to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Hon’ble Chief Minister Jayalalitha a few days earlier is not really a political move; atleast not in any sense understood by traditional Tamil Nadu politics. That’s not to say it isn’t political at all. It strikes one as a move that is scathingly political but it’s disruptive, different and ruthlessly transparent. It’s a spit in the face of the modern politician, the culture of the soulless ghouls who inhabit that world, and the vacuous public multitude that seeks to worship and emulate them.

 

The State of Madras (as Tamil Nadu used to be called) was dominated by Congress till the DMK ousted the grand old party from its comfortable seat. Led by the charismatic Anna and assisted by his trusted Lieutenant, the fiery and dynamic, MK Karunanidhi and the razzle-dazzle of the party mascot, MG Ramachandran. After Anna’s passing, Karunanidhi ascended to the throne of Chief Minister, still with the help of his good friend MG Ramachandran.

 

Things soon turned sour as both the film-star and the Kalaignar looked to eclipse each other on the stage, vying for the love of the general public. The Film-Star won the battle and went to become the Chief Minister of the State and continued to be the Chief Minister till his death, a feat never repeated till Jayalalitha won the Legislative Assembly this month. However, the politicians continued to remain friends despite their differences and allegiances to their parties.

“Both MGR and I attacked each other in debates. But I can never forget my 40 year friendship with MGR. When I came to know of MGR’s death I rushed back from the railway station to pay my last respects. Rationalist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy had serious differences with Rajaji, but when the latter passed away, Periyar cried inconsolably”, Karunanidhi recalled. ”These great leaders had set examples of the great political culture in the state. Now, we have the responsibility of preserving it”, he added.

Well, that’s rather touching from Kalaignar, but neither him or nor the current ruling Supremo, Hon’ble CM Jayalalitha took efforts to mend their fences, instead focussed on undoing what the previous leader had done. This has been the legacy of Tamil Nadu politics, the state is littered with examples of discontinued work of the previous government, as if it was a haunted relic stayed fearing completion will unleash an unspeakable torment on the people, yet dominant enough to not be destroyed.

 

However, there now appears to be a new leaf in the primordial book of Tamil Nadu politics from left field. The source is none other than the 63 year old MK Stalin, son of the former Chief Minister MK Karunanidhi. Though, the ‘Thalapathi’ was not projected as the CM candidate of the DMK, he has led the party from the front and despite defeat has said all the right things (or the things the public want to hear but have never heard in the past).

 

On defeat, Stalin tweeted “We respect the people’s verdict & will work as a responsible opposition party. I take this opportunity to congratulate Selvi J Jayalalithaa”. He also stated that he would attend the swearing in ceremony of the AIADMK Supremo. While this could all be done by his Public Relations team, one may be allowed to dream that positive thoughts have been communicated, even if it’s sham. To the credit of the DMK leader, he went on to attend the swearing in ceremony and despite being seated in the 16th row(considered by his father as an insult), went on to wish the Chief Minister, the best for her term.

 

The move from Stalin is simple but unprecedented, atleast in recent times, and has evoked many a positive sentiment from the general public and his political competition. Infact, the Hon’ble CM later went on to apologise for his seating debacle and said “I convey my good wishes to him and look forward to working with his party for the betterment of the state”.

 

While one could call these leaders charlatans and their actions simply those where they pull wool over our eyes, we must have faith in our democratic system and trust that change will happen and I’d like to think that the change is happening right now. Sometimes, a little change is a good thing.