When you’re with some of your closest friends, you can talk about anything. It could be work, relationships, breakups, sex, drugs & God knows what not. And when anyone of you is feeling particularly philosophical, you guys talk about everything that is wrong with the world and how you propose to fix those problems. But something you are very reluctant to bring up is reservation. And it’s because you’re afraid that one of your friends might belong to a reserved category, and you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. Reservation is like the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that it’s there and that it’s an issue, but no one wants to talk about it. I, on the other hand, acknowledge its existence, and I talk to people about it. Getting to know different people’s perspectives about the situation helps me form an informed opinion.
I was discussing this issue with one of my seniors who did his MBA from IIM Kolkata. He said that whenever he tells someone that he did his post-graduation from an IIM, they just assume that he must have scored a 55 or 60 percentile in his CAT, just because he is from a reserved category. When in fact, he scored a 90 percentile. He felt that it was not fair for people to make assumptions like that based on his caste. While I totally agree with him, what I find more unfair is that a person who scored a 97 or 98 percentile couldn’t get into an institute like that, just because his forefathers were not oppressed a 100 years ago. Intellectuals say that reservation is a necessary evil, but I disagree. It was necessary when we won our independence, but now, 70 years later, it’s just evil.
Dr B.R. Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of our Constitution, and the curator of the reservation policies, never intended reservation to be a permanent measure. He wanted political authorities to ‘rethink’ the phenomenon after every 10 years. His purpose was to make sure that the backward castes get the upliftment that they need and that they have access to all the opportunities that people from the general category have access to. And we have failed him miserably. The discrimination against the backward castes which existed then exists now as well. If anything, reservation has only fueled that discrimination. People belonging to the general category are denied job opportunities, admission to educational institutes, and many other benefits whereas candidates who are nowhere near as capable, get all these things without even trying hard, just because they are from the reserved categories. Hostility between the two groups is only natural.
Here’s an idea. Because people belonging to reserved categories hold on to their SC, ST or OBC status so dearly, why don’t they have only SC/ST/OBC teachers teach their children at school? Would they be okay if only SC/ST/OBC doctors treat them in hospitals or only SC/ST/OBC lawyers fight their cases for them in the courts? If they are okay with it, they can have their reservation. And if they’re not, its because they also know that this system is flawed, but they don’t want to say anything about it as it benefits them. Or another idea. If someone has used their status as the member of a reserved category to maybe get into an educational institute, or to secure a government job, or received any such benefit, then all the other members in the immediate family are denied their status and are not entitled to any such benefits.
Reservation in itself isn’t wrong. What’s wrong is the basis on which we provide reservation. It’s no wonder that more and more talented and capable youth from this country is going abroad for their higher education or for better job opportunities, because they know that if they stay here, they will lose out to someone from one of these reserved categories. Seats should be reserved for people who are weak economically and not for people who feel entitled to certain benefits just because people were not nice to their forefathers many decades ago. We can’t keep losing out on a large chunk of our workforce just so that some political party doesn’t lose out on their vote bank, not if we want to become a strong, developed country with social and economic equality for everyone.