Is reservations-based-on-caste the only solution for uplifting the backward castes of
Having written so much defending reservations-based-on-caste, I shall take a small break to ponder on the above question. Please understand that these are merely my opinions. I am not expecting anything to change. If reading them makes you dig deeper into the problem and understand the situation a bit better, I will consider myself successful. Facing harsh realities and recognizing them is only the first step. Ignorance is bliss, but ignorance doesn’t solve problems at hand.
What is the problem at hand?
We have a huge chunk of our Indian population who are not well represented in many walks of our new life. They seem to have a social handicap by which they are not able to avail the developments and benefits of new
Honestly, I don’t think reservations-based-on-caste is the perfect solution to this problem. Unfortunately our world is not perfect and therefore solutions themselves may not be perfect. I believe that struggle of life is to make this imperfect world less imperfect.
Ponder this. We have had a long history of different types of governments- mona
Let’s explore some of the alternatives to the problem at hand:
Reservations-based-on-economic-status seems to be more logical and idealistic but it’s like using an ointment to cure cancer. You are healing the wound, but the wound is just a symptom of far deeper problem inside the body. That deeper problem in our case is caste. How can one ignore that discrimination which was carried out for centuries is the root cause, and that this discrimination was based on caste? Any solution one can come up has to be based on caste lines, even if it means furthering the concept of caste. One has to accept some ground realities here- Caste is here to stay, just like religions, just like countries and just like races. Let’s work with what we have instead of trying to ignore and believe that such divides do not exist. May be, over the next few hundred years, when all castes have reached similar status one can actually contemplate removing it through a greater social movement. I would love to be a part of that- but my best guess is that I would be dead by then.
Providing basic facilities like better schools, better primary education, free scholarships seems to be a good solution as well. It will definitely root out the chronic problem, like Ayurvedic medicine. This is a solution we should definitely espouse and right now we are definitely working on it as nation- though painfully slow. But while making efforts towards this direction, one has to realize that it will take many generations before it will have any direct impact on any of the lower castes. The problem of caste is not just economic. If it were, we should have seen all castes in all echelons of economic levels. What I mean by this is that we should have seen proportionate representation of each caste in each economic echelon- which is not the case. The statistics on this are extremely lopsided to even hypothecate that the situation has been economic. One knows the reasons for such lopsidedness. It has nothing to do with economic status, and everything to do with one’s caste. Therefore, in addition to providing slow medicine like good facilities and incentives, one should attack the problem directly, the way the modern medicine does, using some antibiotics. This may mean some other sections will feel the pain and have to face the brunt. But if one wants to get quicker and concrete results that is the only way. The rest of the body should be ready to face some pain for few generations so that a future can be envisioned which is better for everyone. Reservations-based-on-caste however imperfect brings quicker results compared to the extremely slow solution of providing facilities and incentives. But over a period of time, this solution should become the backbone while reservations should fade away. We have a long way to go though.
Affirmative Action as used in US sounds very appealing. We should try to implement this at least in some sections of Indian society and see its results. May be we could start with Indian industry and use that experience to extend it to Indian Universities as well. But, for affirmative action to work, one has to have a desired level of maturity and I strongly suspect if Indian elite have that maturity (sorry for condescension here). We did not grow up knowing and studying the ill-effects of casteism in our school or college. Most of the IITs, Narayany Murthys and Azim Premjis seem to show no maturity as well when it comes to dealing with this problem. Nobody is coming out to apologize for the discrimination. Unless we show certain level of maturity at different segments of Indian society, we will not have a level-headed discussion. Affirmative Action has to be accompanied by a mature, voluntary and conscious decision to promote backward castes for it to produce any positive results. It may take more time and more education to bring that kind of level-headed discussion in this country. To achieve that, I would like our primary education to include discussion on discrimination (caste based, gender based, religion based) and wait for a newer generation to grow with balanced ideas instilled in them. Till then, imposition of reservations-based-on-caste is the only way out. Please understand that even US did not come to this maturity all in one go. At one point of time the President of US had to send in Army to uphold a Supreme Court ruling so that some Black students could be allowed into a college. After that, they went on an overdrive to educate their masses on the ills of discrimination and positives of civil rights movement. When we do achieve that maturity in our country, hopefully we will do away with imposition of reservations and espouse affirmative action.
In conclusion, I believe, reservations-based-on-caste is not the perfect solution, but it seems to be best possible option given other alternatives. Some of the alternatives seem to provide good text-book examples or demand more prerequisites but are not the best alternatives in the present scheme of things.