My reservations on reservations
I had a discussion on MM’s blog on reservations and this is a post summarizing my views on the same.
Though I agree that bias based on caste still exists in India, I have to differ on how we should be tackling it.
As you say, your father was highly educated and still had to face issues of discrimination. So, the problem here does not solely lie with education, but with the attitude of people. And that is where the work needs to begin. As far as inter-caste marriages go, marrying out of caste is an issue even if it is to another higher caste person. That is slowly changing, at least in the cities.
Also, yes your father struggled to get his education and now he is there to guide you and help you financially. Do you think it is fair that you get reserved seats now, despite all the help you have? If reservations are solely based on caste, then how do I differentiate?
While you talk of the discrimination you faced on one end, my family has faced discrimination as higher caste people too. My mother works in a bank where a peon went on to become the manager of a branch, not because of his merit but because he is SC/ST. And he regularly siphons money and no one raises a voice against him because he is known to file SC/ST harassment cases against them.
All I am saying is, while backward classes need to be helped by providing them with equal opportunity and help, we cannot lower standards for them. They need to achieve, just like others do. Especially in centers of excellence which is the hope for India going forward.
Reservations have been around for sometime now and we still don’t see the kind of results we wanted. Tribals and villagers (both upper caste and lower caste) are still ignorant and the few people who misuse the system are getting the benefits. Obviously, this needs to change and we need to have a different solution to this issue.
I believe you are a person with a higher moral ground, and you did not take advantage of the reservations offered to you. But I don’t think we can expect that from everyone. With college admissions being so competitive, anyone would surely be tempted to make use of any advantage that is available. I was in an engineering college for 4 years, and without sounding immodest, I knew a lot of people there, and in other colleges. I did not come across one single person from the reserved quota that truly came from an impoverished background, both in terms of economy and education. And while the rest of us had to slog to get a minimum 40% pass, the special categories had to get only 35%. We attended the same lectures from the same professors, then why the differentiation in marks? Why did the son of IAS officer have to pay peanuts for fees while I, who came from a middle class background and got a merit seat , and incidentally topped the university too have to pay a full price?
That said, let me say something about where I come from. My ancestors were priests in the village. And when my grandfather wanted to study with a formal education, my great grandfather refused. My grandfather left home, had to work as a help in his teacher’s house and get educated. And he worked two jobs to support his kids and his brothers whom he wanted to educate too. Did he get any help from the government? No. The last post he held was as the Director of AIR for Kashmir. Imagine a South Indian in Kashmir! In spite of knowing Urdu to the extent of quoting Ghalib at the drop of a hat, he was ridiculed for being a Southie. For being shorter and darker. He had to put in extra effort to gain a standing and respect. Does this mean that all South Indians should be given reservations in North India?
While the upper castes may get “respect” in villages, it does not automatically convert to assumptions that they are reasonably well off, or that they are open to education. And frankly, I have seen the reservation system being more misused than used. In my class of 60 people, only 5 seats were from General Merit. I don’t see sense in that.
We cannot reserve seats in colleges while having villages that lack even primary schools. We cannot fight a crappy attitude towards certain segments by lowering standards for them.
I agree that many Indians need that helping hand. What I don’t agree about is having one blanket criteria for providing that help. Because in a country like ours, where the number of seats in higher education are already grossly inadequate, the scope for misuse is greater than the benefit it provides. All I am saying is, we have to think of more valid criteria for helping these people. I feel economic criteria is better because, honestly, money does buy respect. That is the way the world works. And people who have money have more chances of being exposed to different things, and different people whose mindset may be different from the ignorant. And if everything else fails, they can always buy the services they want.
What we also need desperately is some work towards change in attitude at the grass root levels. We go and reserve 50% seats in the city colleges while there are villages without electricity and schools. And since all of us cannot be morally responsible people (I know I would have been tempted if there was a reservation for me), we need more genuine criteria for deciding who needs help.
I know, it is a lot of work. And it is not easy. But we cannot just have an easier solution because it is easier, we need to have the right solution. Look at what reservation has become now – vote bank politics, with now every community trying to have seats reserved for them.
At least, we can start off by saying that people who have availed reservations in the past cannot have their kids avail the same benefits. And kids with college educated parents cannot avail reservations, or people with annual income above a certain threshold cannot avail reservations.
Added: Supreme Court came with a ruling that people earning above 4.5 lakhs per annum cannot avail reservations. For which there was some protest. Ofcourse all the forward community people who earn below this income have magical powers through which they can cough up the insane amount of money that is charged as fees for education.
Entry filed under: Random Banter.