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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

First step towards Reservation Policy in India

“A voyage of a thousand miles begin with a Single step. Make sure that the step is in right direction.”  A proverb

Introduction – In case of reservation policy/Affirmative Action Policy in India, the first step itself was taken  in the wrong direction during the imperialist British rule in India. Instead of its being taken for the amelioration of submerged sections of society, it had been taken with an ulterior motive to perpetuate its rule in India as long as possible by adopting the policies of ‘divide and rule’ and ‘balance the power’.

Issue – How can such a policy be successful in its mission, which was mooted with the intentions to create a split in the society?

A novel method to distribute and balance power – British Raj spread its Empire and perpetuated its rule by taking the path of discrimination. British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance power on ‘preferential basis’ in the form of ‘Communal Awards’. 1905 to 1940 was the period, when idea of Reservation/positive discrimination was conceived, experimented and established firmly. It opened up various channels of confrontation.

Competition to secure jobs in the government – In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, Indians depended on modern education for securing jobs or to earn their living with respectfully. This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. Muslims and non-Brahmin castes resented dominance of Brahmins in advancement in education, administration and other modern callings. The British took advantage of it.

Beginning of the practice of ‘Preferences’ – To restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs, to weaken national movement mainly guided by Brahmins and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of “Preferences” by giving them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. It served double purpose for them – getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and keeping natives busy in their in-fights.

Anti-Brahmin Movement in Madras – The outcome of Anti-Brahmin Movement started by Periyar in 1926, rejection of casteist policies by the people in 1991 and now the militancy of present Dalit Movement show that the first step taken in favour of reservation policy was not taken in the right direction. It has misled and officially divided the people of India into watertight compartments.

As an Affirmative Action Program, Reservation Policy should work for the sustainable development of the sub-merged sections. It should bring the submerged sections of society into the mainstream by making them strong enough to stand on their own feet. Instead the practice of preference, which later on gave birth to the Reservation policy, has made submerged sections so weak that they have not been able to sustain themselves, till now, without the  crutches of reservations and try tooth and nail to depend on it permanently.

Created vested interests for politicians – Leaving the discretion to continuance of Reservation policy on political authorities after Independence has made it convenient for political leaders  a weapon to create vote-banks for themselves and be in power. It is now based on political expediency, not on principles. Concern for downtrodden have been mixed up with gaining power. Distributive justice has been linked with fixing up quotas for different political groups.

Self-contradictory arguments in favour of continuing it indefinitely – The ideologies put forward in support for continuing quota system now are mostly self-contradictory, illogical, half-cooked and not based on present real life situations. It is presented before public by twisting or distorting the facts. On surface, everything appears fine, but actually Reservations on caste-basis has done a great damage to the unity of the nation. It has degenerated democracy into a number game and palliatives. It leaves a negative influence on national psyche.

The ideologies of Constitution framers run out of steam – The Constitution framers, at the time of Independence, dreamt to constitute India into a sovereign, secular Democratic Republic and to secure all its citizens justice, social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief and worship, equality of status and of opportunity and promote among all fraternity assuring dignity of individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. These ideologies have more or less run out of steam today.

Reverse discrimination, not a good solution – In the governance of a democratic country, discrimination of any kind – be it positive or negative – or anywhere is the most objectionable thing. It has become one of the big challenges before the government to reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity. With the spread of education and awareness, aspirations and demands of people are at rise. Growing needs and aspirations of the people as a whole, not of any specific section should be taken care of by the government without any bias.

The problem of discrimination can not be tackled by adopting the path of discrimination. Reservation works on the basis of reverse discrimination. It makes lower castes entitled to get preferential treatment by the government or be treated more than equals in different spheres. It has resulted in a tough competition amongst various castes to demand a lower status, so that they can also avail more facilities. The voice of upper castes mostly belonging to middle class or lower class is being continuously throttled mercilessly. They stand nowhere in present day vote-bank politics, because of their decreasing number and following sincerely family-planning norms. It has even not helped much the deserving candidates belonging to lower castes.

Comments of the Chairman of First Backward Class Commission – First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar had very wisely advised the government in mid fifties, that “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation.” All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the solidarity or efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity.

It is dividing the society – The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is an example, where a fraction of society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity. A strong political will and courage is needed to finish all kinds of discriminatory attitudes, repressive laws and practices.

Ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers – Officially recognizing the grouping of various castes or sub castes into bigger unbridgeable political lobbies for reservation purposes – Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities can hardly be called a transformation of society. The stratification has been done in most insensitive manner and is based on negative exhortations, condemning all traditional values and structures. Reservations on the basis of caste has given the backwards an identity as a composite and powerful political pressure group. It has helped them to unite organise and fight vigorously for the seats of power. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers.

Undermines concept of ‘Merit’ in governance – Reservation or quota without merit undermines the universally accepted principle of organizing, regulating and distributing power, which endow democracy with effectiveness, legitimacy and dignity. It pushes into the background the real problem areas like population-explosion, poverty, inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fiber of the Indian society.

Against the principle of natural ‘justice’ –  Justice ‘Social, economic and political’ never allows to punish somebody for the crimes committed by somebody else. The supporters of reservation claim that in return for centuries of suppression/oppression of the ancestors of lower castes on the basis of birth, present generation of upper castes is accountable and punishable and make reparations for sins/historical wrong done by their ancestors.

Meaning of wider participation – Wider participation in governance does not mean everybody sharing power equally. More than thousand million people can not be accommodated in power structure. It means a harmonious partnership between the public and the authorities responsible for governance. Governance has to be done on the basis of mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust. Governance is a continuing process, through which conflicting interests and diverse needs of all the people are looked-after and a cooperative action is taken. Above all, spreading knowledge and awareness amongst masses are required – knowledge which is the source of power and is derived from sound education, and awareness which comes from information. True empowerment depends critically availability of information.

Equality can not be enforced – Equality can not be imposed or enforced by any outside agency or authority. Such a step may prove to be a cause of social unrest. It has to be in-built in the social economic and political system of a country. Policy of reservation can neither convert an iniquitous Society into an equitable one, nor does it help in any way the vulnerable, oppressed and submerged masses, who day in and day out suffer due to basic issues like poverty, unemployment, inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, no control over anti-social or misguided elements, or harassment/violence by insensitive but powerful lobby of that area etc.

The supporters of reservation give more importance to distribute seats of power on pro-rata basis through reservations rather than improving the capability and qualifications through education and training. Access to public office through Reservation is sought more with an aim to get throne/power/authority to rule and control over treasury/public funds.

Conclusion – It is not the Reservation, which is necessary. As Swami Vivekanand had said long long ago, “No amount of politics would be of any avail, until the masses in India are once more well educated, well fed and well cared for”.

October 26, 2017 - Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program

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