On ‘Reservation policy’
I see people taking very firm stand regarding ‘reservation’ [of jobs in Government for certain communities in India]. I must confess I have often found that it is difficult to take a position in support or otherwise. I have vacillated in my opinions that have ranged from reservation being a ‘necessary evil’ to ‘wrong solution to a burning problem’. Let me share my experiences and elaborate
1. A student whom I know well, used to tend cattle in his village. He went to school late, but completed his education up to post graduation. He got a job in Air India as he benefited from reservation policy of Government of India. As an employee of Air India he travelled all over the world, in his days it was a rare opportunity for men of his standing. Subsequently he retired [early] under the voluntary retirement scheme, getting a good compensation. He got permission to set up a petrol pump under some Government scheme. Now he earns a steady income post retirement. The man who was used to find cattle in front of his home now finds cars there! I feel happy every time I see him beaming with satisfaction.
2. I met my cousin, a Doctor, who was a professor at a medical college. She was furious. She said, ‘this boy [her student in medical college, who had obtained admission under reserved quota] is going to fail again’. ‘He will perhaps pass his examination after several attempts. I shudder to think that he is going to treat some patients! They may never go to any doctor again, they will not be alive!!’
3. A Brahmin girl known to me fell in love with and married a boy [Mr. A] who belonged to a scheduled caste. Soon she discovered that the ‘lover boy’ in him had disappeared and he started controlling her. She was a vegetarian but she had to go to market to buy meat. She found it disgusting, but she reluctantly started cooking non-vegetarian food for him. She had to do many disagreeable tasks which led to frequent quarrels. One day he kicked her in anger. She left him for a short while. His brother [Mr B] has a place of pride in the organisation he works for and also in the society. And B is indeed a very educated and cultured person. Coincidentally he too married a Brahmin girl and they are a happy couple. The two brothers A and B were brought up by the same parents, but they hold very different values, sensitivities, and have very different ways of solving their problems. How does this happen?
I can narrate many such instances to narrate. The ‘reservation’ policy has certainly done something good as in the first case, it sometimes offers opportunities to the undeserving as in the second, and I think it is wrong on our part to conclude ‘that is typical of them’ about any community as the third case illustrates.
It is fashionable to speak for reservation. It is impolitic to do otherwise. But a common man has enough experiences that make him sometimes conclude for and sometimes against reservation policy. He is led by his daily dose of experience. That is what happens to me. How about you?
‘Reservation’ drives in a divide. The policy and the concept in itself pits groups against one another : for & against !
It requires a balanced thought & clarity of distance to stand apart and yet stay involved.
Much of such clarity comes from stringing together various experiences and using them to string the garland of ‘point of view’ ! Just like what you have articulated !!
The experiences that you share are frequent every person in India ! sometimes we are cognizant of this. Sometimes indifferent. Sometimes indignant !
I have experienced these mixed feelings time and again.
I have not matched up to a few students who have benefited from reservations. There are others who have benefited and don’t match up to me even after having engineering degrees and a very advantaged background.
The whole idea of reservation on the basis of caste, in my view, is a political tool. If any reservation needs to be done, it has to be on the basis if economic deprivation. This view has oft been quoted but no one is paying heed to it.
There are and have been long and lengthy discussions on the merits and demerits of reservation policy.
The distribution of a limited resource amongst many hands is bound to cause pleasure or heartburn depending on whether one is on the receiving end or the non-receiving one.
I recall when I was in school; I had a classmate who was a vegetable vendor’s son (a dalit). All my friends (including me regretfully) used to tease him on his father’s occupation. I met his father very recently in Chembur and was pleasantly surprised to learn that my classmate went on to complete his engineering from Mumbai and is well settled in USA today, working for a leading company (the poor man could not even pronounce the name of the company). Incidentally, the father is still at his old profession of selling vegetables. I happened to mention this to one of my other class mate friend and his immediate response was “He is a Dalit and would have obtained a seat under the quota”. This other class mate of mine incidentally is from the forward community and is today a front desk manager in a hotel in Delhi. That, he could never complete engineering even if he had been offered a seat under the quota is another story.
Funnily enough, I was speaking to an auto driver who claimed to be from the scheduled caste and was mentioning about a sub-caste within his caste, whom they considered as the lowest among the low. One can probably imagine the confusion if the driver’s quota of seats was further bifurcated between him and the sub-caste he was mentioning about. In such a case the auto driver would probably be classified as belonging to the forward community in relation to his caste.
A very contentious issue.
I remember, my batch 1990, was the last batch without the OBC reservations. And I remember the demonstrations, the strike and the general anger which was present in each and every general category student at that time. It was very difficult for me, as a forward caste, person to come to terms with the fact that suddenly my own ability is never going to be enough for any achievements in the professional space.
Over the years I have come to realise the following,
1. Higher education is a just a filtering mechanism for lazy organisations to select their canon fodder. (I am exlcluding doctors here). For all the rest, whether business, or even technical space, organsiational training can always substitute the university education.
2. It is not really required for a large number of commercial activities. So any kind of trade or service, which depends on entrepreneurship and resourcefulness, university organisation is unlikely to help in any case.
3. Majority of the OBCs and SC / ST s are untouched by the benefits of such a policy. The benefits are mostly cornered by the comparatively well off among these castes.
4. The only benefit that it does provide, unequivocally, is to the ruling class, which is able to use it as a voting issue.
5. Finally, all the heartburn among the people who are kept out of the system due such selection mechanisms, actually points towards the groslly inadequate supply of higher education for country the size of India. If there were adequate number of colleges in the first place, there would be competition among the colleges for the students rather than among students for the colleges.
This reservation issue sure touched a cord. Everytime this comes up in my family, an immediate polarization takes place. My father and my sister are vehemently opposed to it. Whereas, my mother and I toe the middle line. We beleive, just as you pointed out, that there are some who will benefit and there are some who will take advantage.
Here is what my mother used to tell me. She is a Tamil Brahmin, who did her engneering from Gindi engineering college, a state engineering college. There is no place where reservation is worse than in Tamil Nadu. The entire state politics thrives purely on Brahmin-bashing and if you are born a Brahmin you might as well forget about government higher education. While most Brahmins left the state to do their engineering outside, my mother’s family could not afford to do so nor could they afford a private engineering college. So she had to really struggle to get some 98 percent to get into a good state engineering college and even then, she was among others who had just sailed in with percentages far lower. She did carry a bit of a cross for a long time. But over a period of time, she came to see the otherside of the picture. When she was once teaching a class of MBA students in FMS about how to deal with GD’s and Interviews, she came to see that it was almost immediately obvious who the reserved category students were. Invariably, they were the more under confident ones, the ones who stuttered more, who had self-image issue, whose spoken English wasn’t that great and who in general were never to be seen at the top something percentile of the class. In any of her one-on-one interactions with these students, they usually emerged as having struggled a lot and as having the most massive self-doubt issues. Obviously they never got the best companies and could not get a chance to redeem heir confidence.
The problem is not just that reservation is a contentious issue. It is that often, those who get reservation, are treated as unworthy, which then defeats the entire purpose of reservation. I have seen deliberate attempts to find out who the reserved category students are in a college are and hushed gasps of “what!! I never knew he/she was reserved categoiry”. There is a certain degree of superiority, which further reinforces their inferiority complex. A reservation policy that doesn’t take into account such psychological side-effects will never work in the long run. Moreover, people who only see the receivers of reservation as the harbingers of doom for the upper-caste education and fail to the see the larger system that is making reservation what it is are also transferring all their anger and frustration onto the receivers of reservation. Most convenient. And no protest or morcha could defeat reservation more.
So it sometimes hurts to see such intolerance in young kids like my sister, who simply pick up from the examples of back-lash showcased on the media or heard in their elders voices and then carry the same blanket judgments into their worlds, without stopping to think about the possibility of another side to the argument.