“What is dishonourably got, is dishonourably squandered.”  Cicero

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

First step towards ‘Reservation’ – In case of reservation policy, the first step itself was taken  in the wrong direction by British rulers 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 policy of ‘divide and rule’ and ‘balance the power’. How can such a policy be successful in its mission, which was mooted with the intentions to create a split in the society? The seeds sown by British rulers flourished in full in Independent India.

Many political leaders and groups are basing their campaign on advocating Reservations in power echelons for ‘this section of society’ or ‘that section of society’. All their arguments for advocating reservation for any specific group are based on discriminatory practices in Indian society.

Discriminatory practices – Some kind of discriminatory practices have always existed in all societies world-over on different grounds.  Usually vulnerable sections of society are subjected to prejudice/discrimination. Some kind of irritations or indignities such people experience at present, are nothing compared to what the previous generation experienced.

Dr. Dean Harmisan’s observations on discrimination – Dr. Dean Harmisan, who travelled to nearly all the states in India, visited villages and slums, temples, mosques and churches, shared meals and conversations with people there at all stations, says,

“I have not experienced discrimination to the extent, it is being painted here; but what I have seen here is class discrimination. Yes I have seen the economic poverty.

“In January, I had the privilege to attend the Kumbh Mela in Northern India, the world’s largest religio-cultural gathering. Imagine, 12 million people coming together for ‘sacred dip’ in Holy Ganges and to be together with saints and swamis of India. There was no evidence od discrimination of any kind.”

“I have observed that like all societies, India is stratified economically and socially.There are economic, social, cultural and educational hierarchies – some explicit, some implicit. Discrimination I have observed in India is class-based.” … “Indeed these (caste-based) policies have left the poor of upper castes out. … I have been in homes of wealthy Dalits where servants, cooks and cleaning people have been of upper castes.” … “It seems the Dalit cause has become more about vote-bank politics than about real social issues.”  (Speech of Dr. Dean Harmisan at 53rd session of Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights at N. Delhi, Quoted from P. 11, TOI, New Delhi Aug 18, 2001)

India has travelled a long distance since then. No one should defame or single out India for discriminatory practices. Most of the criticism of its systems and values are based on vested interests of a few and their biased and half-cooked informations. Indian culture and traditions should not be tainted for political opportunism. Indian culture has always preached, “Whatever the colour of the cow, the milk is always white”. Whatever be the background, life-style, race, religion or caste of a person, each human is an image of Divinity and a foundation of love. Therefore, each one must be honoured.             

How discriminatory practices started in political arena of India – British Raj spread its Empire and desired to perpetuate 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.

Preferences given to some sections of Indian society to restrict Brahmin’s entry into 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. 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” to less talented persons from different sections of society. The British Government gave financial assistance for education, and preferences in 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.

Divided Indian society into watertight compartments – 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.

Dependence on crutches – As an Affirmative Action Program, Reservation Policy is supposed to work for the sustainable development of the submerged sections of society by making them capable enough to stand on their own feet and bring them into the mainstream of the society. Instead it has been made submerged sections so weak that they can not sustain themselves without the  crutches of reservations and depend on it permanently. 

Instead of an affirmative program, quota system after the Independence –Leaving Reservation to the discretion of political authorities after Independence makes it to be 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.

Now reservation based on political expediency – 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.

Justice, social, economic and political to all its citizens? – 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.

How to reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity? –  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.

No discrimination, be it positive or negative – In the governance of a democratic country, discrimination of any kind – be it positive or negative – or anywhere is the most objectionable thing. The problem of discrimination can not be tackled by adopting the path of reverse-discrimination. Reservation works on the basis of reverse discrimination.

Increasing demand for lower categorization of their caste-status –Reservation entitles lower castes to get preferential treatment in education and employment in the government. In other words, backward castes are supposed to be treated more than equals in various spheres. It has resulted in a tough competition amongst various castes to demand a lower social status in the government list, 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.

Government to recognize only two ends, the individual and the nation – The 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. 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.

Consequences of evading reality – It has  rightly said, “We can evade reality, but we can not evade the consequences of evading reality.”  (Ayn Rand). Following are the consequences of evading the reality in the case of reservation policy –

  • Recognition of the lower social status 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Good 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 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.

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”.