Reservation – A tool for ‘Level-Playing field’ or a ploy for ‘Political Appeasement’?

By Dr. J. K. Bhutani

The well intentioned ‘Reservation Policies under the Constitution’ envisioned as a rightful freedom gift for the downtrodden and ‘low castes’ that had been exploited for centuries, has become a political tool in the hands of economically and politically powerful people now. The object of ensuring a ‘level-playing’ field for the extremely backward, the scheduled castes, tribes and the exploited is not the issue anymore! Rather reservation has become a mechanism to extract political mileage, power and exert strong lobbying!

The Patels of Gujarat, the Jats of northern India or the emerging Yadavs are all demanding the share in reservation, not for the downtrodden and poor to bring them in the mainstream. Neither is the demand for a balanced growth of emerging India. It represents more of a ‘bullying lobby demand’ for the share in the upfront bureaucracy, political power structure and emerging growth story of India. The current protests of Patels and Jats ransacking the state conveys more of their economic clout, power and political bargaining than the real need for the upliftment of their class status.

From an affirmative action for ‘not-so-privileged’ to bring them to mainstream, to an electoral crutch for the politicians, and now a bullying tool in the hands of ‘influential lobbied’ castes, the reservation system has done more harm to the vision of the constitution makers of India than it has benefited the deserving stakeholders….!

The seeds were sown in 1933, by the ‘Communal Award’ of then Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay MacDonald which suggested separate representation for the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Dalits for elected representatives of special constituencies.

ReservationThe award was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi as a divisive tactic, but later negotiated with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in a more dilute form to include dalits in Hindu electorate with some seats reservation (Poona Pact). Electorates for other religions like Muslim and Sikh remained separate.

The Caste System which existed in Hindu religion since 1500 BC was finally abolished in the Indian constitution after independence. The primary stated objective of the Indian reservation system was to increase the opportunities for enhanced social and educational status of the underprivileged communities and thus uplift their lifestyle to have their place in the mainstream of Indian society. The reservation system provided for the opportunities for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to increase their political representation in the Legislatures, the Executive Organs of the Centre/States, the work force, educational institutions and public sector areas.

The measure was not intended to be a permanent right, and was provisioned for future debates and modifications for the classless visions of the founders of free independent India.

There was a provision for 22.5% reservation for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs). The further inclusion of OBC’s meant increasing the quota from 22% to 49.5%, which was done against the wishes of youth of India in 1992 by V. P. Singh by implementing the Mandal commission’s reports.

Although the Supreme Court of India has ruled that reservations could not exceed 50%, still the clamour for such inclusions by various ‘influential lobbied’ castes and appeasing tactics of political parties are a regular feature in India. The other regulation of Supreme Court regarding the relaxation of 5-10% aggregate marks is often flouted by the states and centre for petty political motives. The intended benefits for the low castes are nowhere near the vision of the founders of the constitution. On the contrary it has widened the ‘rift and friction among castes’ and given us a ‘below average, at best mediocre’ bureaucracy, service sector and professionals class…..!

The state shall continue with such measures till we have depleted all the best brains of the country by the ‘weeds-overtaking-the crop’ phenomenon….!

RESERVE we must and maybe we do more than 50 percent! The atrocities and exploitation of centuries cannot be removed or compensated in decades of slow equity provisions of constitution and half-hearted participation of elites.
We do need to bring them all to mainstream for the equal, just and fair society envisaged in the socialist democratic India, But the way to go is not by going for the political appeasement of the economic influential lobbies of the organised powerful groups, but looking compassionately the need of level –playing field for the downtrodden, weakest of the weak and the dalits.

We need to undertake massive programs to teach them, coach them, fortify them, give them enough economic help and make them ‘level-playing’ in the real sense and not as an appeasement for vote-banks….!
The clamour for the caste-based reservation may be the political unanimity of the current times, but the merit based reservation is the need and demand of the youth.

The voice of the youth is ‘please do not lower the standards by lowering the cut-offs…..!’

We need to maintain livable standards of excellence for civil society to evolve ever and India cannot afford to miss its coveted emerging status in the hierarchy of nations…..!

Dr J.K. Bhutani MD is a protagonist of preventive and promotive health care based on austere biology and facilitating self healing powers of human organism.
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