The issue of reservation has been a hot topic of debate in mainstream and social media for a long time. While conflicting views prevail, each individual lies on one of the two ends of the spectrum, either advocating for it or vehemently opposing it. The problem, however, is not with the idea of reservations, it has got more to do with the premise on which it is based.
Historically, the Hindu society was divided into castes at birth on the basis of the occupation of the families. A heinous practice of untouchability prevailed and people belonging to the lower rungs of the social ladder were severely discriminated upon. Our founding fathers, in order to make up for the prejudice and inhuman treatment meted out to them over generations incorporated the provision of 20% reservation for people belonging to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities in public sector jobs and educational institutions. In 1989, the then incumbent government decided to extend the benefits of reservation to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) as well. As of today, the caste based reservations stand at close to 50%.
Caste based reservations made sense at the time of independence. In fact, they were to be reviewed after a period of ten years in order to gauge their impact on the goal of social equality. But as it turns out, that review is still pending. With changing times, we as a society have evolved in myriad ways. The economy has boomed and although complete social and economic equity is still a distant dream, there remains no correlation between the caste and the access to opportunities. That is where the concept of caste-based reservation starts losing the plot. They are no longer democratic.
Instead of uplifting the needy (impoverished/differently abled), reservations are merely serving as convenient proxies for the people belonging to backward castes to the most prestigious government institutions and jobs. It has created such a tantalising aura that everyone wants a piece of the pie. The various agitations and the indiscriminate fighting between social groups for gaining a spot in the coveted list of backward castes are sufficient proof of how ridiculous this system is. Moreover, the sensitiveness of the issue has enabled the political parties to play vote bank politics by leveraging the vulnerabilities of the various caste groups. The fear of getting thrown out of power has inhibited leaders from even bringing up the subject of reservation let alone getting rid of them. And with the kind of political wisdom that prevails, we can be assured that it’ll stay here till eternity.
A major negative consequence that this regressive policy has had is that it has been hindering our growth by depriving us of an opportunity to perform to our full potential. As a nation, we are pulling ourselves back. Efficiency is of utmost importance in the accomplishment of any task and our human capital is being deliberately compromised upon. How are we supposed to realise our development goals within optimum time?
That being said, I am against wielding reservations as an excuse for not making it to a top government college or landing that prestigious administrative job. In the current scenario, caste-based reservations are wrong and instead the economically backward and the differently-abled should be the real beneficiaries of such a scheme. However, the world doesn’t always work in a fair manner.
For people outside the purview of reservations, it should be about accepting the fact and making oneself good enough so that it doesn’t become a deciding factor in success. For the privileged ones belonging to backward castes, may the sense of righteousness prevent them from exploiting this flawed legislative practice.