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Is it time for India to revisit Reservation Policy ?

Is it time for India to revisit Reservation Policy.png

The intricacies of Indian social setup have always given a tough time to the policy makers of the country to put in place public welfare schemes, which may serve the purpose of one and all alike. Thereon, when the society is already divided on religious, communal and various other grounds, what is the need to divide it further by drawing lines in the name of the reservation? Reservation if on one hand is the only ray of hope for some socially disadvantaged sections of society to move forward in life, on the other hand it is the same reservation, which is preventing a sick and an ailing person from becoming healthy.

The reservation issue raised in Gujarat is a reminiscent of the Mandal Commission Protests of 1989 and reflects the glimpses of 2008 reservation issue, raised then by the Gujjars of Rajasthan, demanding 5% reservation from Rajasthan government. The Gujjar agitation of Rajasthan assumed the ugly shape, the moment Gujjars from the adjoining states started showing solidarity with them and ultimately resulted in the incidents of killing, vandalism, arson and many more.

Of late, the Patel community of Gujarat has taken the Gujarat Government and the state as a whole hostage by coming on roads in support of their demand. The Patel community of the Gujarat wants to be included in the OBC category, so that the community may reap the 27% reservation benefits in all Government jobs and other service sectors. There is an urgent need that the agitation be nipped at its infancy by preventing/discouraging any type or kind of solidarity from any quarter, which otherwise may turn things uglier than what we saw during Rajasthan Gujjar agitation.

Primarily, the fundamentals of the Indian reservation policy appear too weak to justify the fairness of the scheme. It seems the decision pertaining to upliftment and betterment of socially disadvantaged sections of Indian society was taken more on emotional grounds, rather than by having an objective approach towards the problem. There is no denying in the fact that the majority of the downtrodden and needy people belonged to the socially disadvantaged sections of the Indian society, but that should have never been a parameter to sideline the poor and needy people belonging to the so called upper caste groups. How far it is justified that welfare measures be extended to people under constitutional guarantee on the basis of his/her caste, community, region or religion and not on the basis of his/her social standing. It is always desirable that any welfare scheme be extended to all needy and deserving people irrespective of their religious, community and caste affiliations.

It is a known fact that people belonging to socially disadvantaged sections of the society generally have lesser access to opportunities for various reasons, but the foremost reason for their social backwardness is directly related to their economic backwardness. Any individual belonging to any well to do family has always better access to all such means, which can contribute to changing his/her social standing. Whatever reservation practices are in place, the benefits are mostly reaped by the few belonging to all such identified sections.

Even today, one can quote instances whereby a sizeable population of so called upper caste families across the country are earning their two square meals a day by doing all kinds of odd jobs. We may find the children belonging to well off upper caste families, who despite having ample opportunities, fail to excel in life. On the other hand, there are children from poor families who do exceptionally well in both their academic attainments and do excel in other social spheres.

Given the fact, where do our reservation welfare measures justify their uniformity for one and all on the basis of their economic soundness. How far is it justified that a destitute belonging to one group be extended with all possible help and the other be deprived of only because he/she belongs to a particular caste, group, etc. How far is it justified to adopt two different yardsticks to measure a common problem on the basis of religion and caste affinity of an individual?

Today it is the Patel community of the Gujarat and tomorrow some other group and the day after some more groups may come forward over the issues of reservation and ultimately we may find no stopping. Perhaps, the time has come when the Government of India should revisit the reservation policy issue. The bigger fact remains that the decision taken at a particular point of time does not necessarily mean that it will have relevance in the times to come. Patels’ of Gujarat are known for their economic soundness and still if they are pressing for their reservation in jobs and other service sectors corroborates the fact that people no more correlate their economic soundness as a reason for their reservation and deem reservation more as a matter of right, for having constitutional guarantees. The economic soundness has lost its relevance with the reservation issue, hence once again questioning the need to put up a better parameter with a better mechanism to identify the true beneficiary under any welfare scheme.

Besides, it is an open secret that the reservation policy of Government of India, which is in place for over 65 years, has failed to yield the desired results for which actually the policy was framed. It is the urbanities of so called downtrodden and socially disadvantaged sections that reap most of the benefits of all such welfare schemes, while their rural cousins remain deprived of all such benefits.

Needless to say that the reservation sops offered to the weaker sections of Indian society were aimed to support and enable them to stand on their own legs and not to attach these walking aids to their bodies as extra limbs, which are being misused by the beneficiaries to run an extra mile for their greater advantage. These beneficiaries have somewhere forgotten that the reservation support is there to encourage them, to move alongside the society with all dignity and self esteem. Ironically, things seem to be have gone contrary to what they were actually aimed at. In the process, the beneficiaries indeed have moved ahead, but have somewhere in-between lost the touch of fellow feeling, which has resulted into disproportionate use, misuse and abuse of all such schemes, whereby the needy and deserving destitute stand distantly marginalised from the ambit of all such schemes. The abuse of welfare measures has made it further difficult for sociologists to ponder over the basics of the reservation policy. Time and again, the subject has been discussed threadbare and the more it is being discussed, the more it gets entangled between the two extremities, as whether the reservation should be continued or we should do away with it.

Whatsoever, it is a proven fact that all such welfare measures in their present form are not serving the purpose, the way they should have been. So, it is high time to reorganise all such welfare schemes to the suitability of those, for whom the schemes are actually meant. The only thing which emerges from the reservation maelstroms is that reservation has become a reason to create a further divide in society on the basis of caste, colour, creed, region, religion, cult, clan, community, etc. and the time has come when people belonging to different sections of society are to be treated at par without any prejudice. The policy makers should revisit the reservation policy with a more holistic approach, whereby lines of divide be obliterated by introducing and extending welfare schemes irrespective of religious or caste affiliation of the needy and deserving with zero or minimal constitutional guarantees.

Author: Ramesh Pandita  

Published: Sept 03, 2015

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