Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Stand on Reservations II

“Are Brahmins the Dalits of today?”

There are some, like Francois Gautier of Rediff Columns, who pose questions like above. Dalits were backward not because they were poor. They were ostracized (that means they were put out of the mainstream, they were considered so disgusting that they could not be touched), persecuted (targeted and lynched), and discriminated against (that means they were treated as sub-human, and were not allowed to enter schools, temples, or other administrative offices), not because they were poor, but because they were born into Dalit family. The analogy with the present day poor forward classes like poor Brahmins is utterly and grossly flawed. The present day poor Brahmin is not targeted and kept out of college or school for being a Brahmin. Economic status could be changed over a generation or two, but discrimination and persecution kept going consistently, without wavering, ever increasing, for over two thousand years. The analogy is of bad taste even if the author is using exaggeration to drive his point.

Shouldn’t reservations be based on economic criteria?

This discrimination and persecution (as outlined above) was carried out on the name of ‘caste’, not based on religion, not based on gender, not based on language or class, and definitely not based on economic status of a person. A poor Brahmin or a poor Kshatriya had always access to education, water from the village well, and had access to any kind of employment, including being a munim/munshi during Mughal Empire or become an IAS officer during British Empire. A Dalit was out-casted not because he is poor but because he is born Dalit. Not much he could do in his life to change his status! He died not knowing what it means to read or write, not knowing what it means to look at this world as a literate man. Always an ignorant, he was continually exploited resulting in bonded labor where many generations served a family because of a small loan taken centuries ago by a forefather. He agreed with those who told them that he is derived from the soil under the foot of the God. He agreed to walk with a broom behind his back to remove his own foot prints because they were defiling the streets.

When we set out a massive pogrom of depriving a section based on caste for thousands of years, any corrective measure that one can come up has to be based on ‘caste’. It cannot be any other.

Many in India now argue that reservations should be based on economic status. ‘It’s the poor who should be given reservations, not backward classes’, they argue. This argument is absolutely fallacious and has to be rejected. There are other schemes for poor people, such as free education, free books, scholarships, etc. There are free sops to poor farmers. A poor person irrespective of caste can avail free education, free medication and scholarships in India. That will only solve the economic problems. But that is not going to solve the problems of discrimination-based-on-caste which is so deeply entrenched into our Indian psyche. No matter what the urban, forward classes and elite media want to believe and want us to believe, there are enough examples to show with absolute proof that discrimination based on caste exists in India, more so in rural India where more than 75% of India lives. This discrimination may have been subdued over time, unlike in the older times where it was overt, but it is still palpable in all schemes of things in life. Reservations based on caste is the only solace, the only avenue that tries to provide a fight against that discrimination, trying its best to narrow the divide that engulfed our sub-continent for thousands of years. Anything else is not valid and should be rejected.

Why do I think ‘reservations based on economic status’ cannot be effective?

First, the reservations were introduced to correct the wrongs this subcontinent practiced and the basis for that was ‘caste’ (explained above). Second, in India there is no effective way of knowing how much a person earns. Currently, only 3% of India pays taxes. Does the rest (97%) fall outside the tax bracket (where they are exempted)? Not necessarily. Many of them are tax-dodgers. There are many rich people who do not pay taxes and wrongly file that they earn less to get exempted. The whole purpose of imposing a scheme to correct the wrongs of discrimination-based-on-caste will be lost if the reservations are based on economic status because this is equivalent to leaving a big loop hole for the forward class to keep up its dominance and discrimination through alternate methods. Reservations-based-on-caste however flawed is the still the best recourse to address the problem at hand.


  1. And you think reservations based on caste is going to make this go away?? We need steps that blur these divides, not reinforce them. How about tax rebates for inter caste marriages? Even corporate rebates for company hiring a highly diverse work force- and why should the diversity be limited to caste, it should include women and the handicapped people too.

  2. there is a greater conspiracy on the argument for economic reservation.
    the upper castes know that once economic based system is implemented, they can bring the remaining also to the elite education system. because of the social advanatge, it will be the upper castes, who always make into the stream.

  3. There is a certain community in Coimbatore which is wealthy and possesses most assets in the city. That community is categorized as Backward Class and is able to avail of reservation benefits. Is this fair?

  4. Sujay,
    Did you get a chance to read the point system based solution proposed by JNU professor Purusotham Agarwal. This is by far best solution given by anyone.

    I do agree about the reservation to those who deserved. But I strongly believe that it is getting misused a lot. My argument is dalits, OBCs etc or anyone, whose parents are able to give them good education should not get 'any' reservation. If they do, it is kind of cheating the system, isn't it?? The reservation provides a backdoor for people who should really use the front-door for schools or jobs.

    So, the reservation should be given only to those who doesn't get the opportunity to succeed only because of the 'caste'? Isn't this a valid stament?? You say reservation is only practical way. Isn't possible to deny the reservation for kids of parents who already benifited from it??

    What I hate most is how the politicians are using this reservation topic to get the votes. There is already so much reservation in state colleges.. and why no fight for just few seats on IITS all of a sudden?? In Govt jobs any engg degree same. Isn't it because MNC's are preferring IIT students??

    Now why there should be reservation in private jobs?? Imagine, if you start a company and put all energy and savings in it, do you want people who best fits your requirements and make the company successfull or do you follow all kinds of reservations and take the person who you can find in that quota though you know it is not the right fit??

    This is all political gimmic and these politicians are using everybody for their own benifit using Devide and rule policy. If things are going well and smooth, who will vote for them?? Do you know a well known saying "you make your living by creating the problems and (trying to) solving them"

    In TN, there is 69% govt reservation in total and in most priviate colleges there is institution quota. So what is left for some one who worked very hard and doesn't make it and bunch of his friends who studied in same private school made it because of reservation? doesn't he/she have a reason to get outraged??

    You have mentioned about harvard giving admission from top 25%. Actually, you have been mistaken about their admission process. I have been in US long enough and even studided here so I know how it works. It is true that they don't just look at academics. They look at overall performance of the students like recommendations, marks, entrance scores, sports, other activities such helping community, research papers, part-time work experience etc. The reason for this is they know that versatile person is more effecient that the one who just sticks to acads. I think this difference should be noted before comparing US admission process.

    your views are interesting and everybody has right to express their viewpoint. I am not denying or correcting what you said, but this is merely my viewpoint of how the system should be.

  5. I got so mad when I heard someone burnt an effigy of Infosys Chairman Narayana Murthy. I really do not understand this. Though the company doesn't differentiate, just becuase they cannot pass the interview, they burned the effigy?? They got the same education and they can find a govt job very easily and now they want reservations in every breath we take.

    Though it is not really intended this way, reservations are working like parasite. Now muslims are asking for reservations, folks from POK are asking special quota, and many casts are asking them to be included in BCs (some casts like Yadav's are well advanced, but still get reservation) and tomorrow Naxals will ask for their quota because they couldn't send their kids to schools as they live in forests..:-).

    I have read his biography and it was very inspiring to know that inspite of the limited resources and financial constraints he established a company, really struggled for almost 9 years before making it big. If you really work hard towards something, you do not feel it right to give something for free. I don't belive he is doing anyting wrong. He is contributing so much to charity and primary education to 'SAME PEOPLE' for whose benifit these pro-reservation folks are figting. Or I wonder, these pro-rervation folks are really fighting for the needed - who is getting the most benifit??

    Apparently, he even got admission for batchelors into IITs, but couldn't go because of finances, but was able to do Masters in an IIT as he could manage scholorship. This tells us inspite of him being born in uppercast and deserved, he couldn't get it. May be we should think about this rather than fighting for reservations. He still made a mark for himself only because he belived in the true hard work and there is no 'backdoor' for the success.

  6. "Reservations" based on caste, only seek to reinforce the idea of caste. So the idea itself is a fallacy, one that contradicts itself.

    To qualify for reservation one has to declare he is "backward" class. Who is kidding whom? For his children to qualify he has to be sure they are "backward" class too. So do they ever become "forward" then?

    One cannot correct a wrong with another wrong.
    The idea is as absurd as can be.


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