Over the years, the Indian caste system has refused to get washed away in the river of time. Instead, it still exists, and in a more malicious form than it ever did. During the Vedic ages, when all the caste laws are said to have been formulated, a person’s caste was decided by the work he did. So a person who had the function of protection would be a Kshatriya, one who was responsible for religious ceremonies and were learned, would be the Brahmins and the one’s who would do other equally essential jobs like being farmers, tanners or cobblers, etc, would be the Shudras and the Vaishyas. Needless to say, this caste system was fool-proof, because it did not relate the caste of a particular person to his family and lineage, but to the work he chose to do, and all the communities were inter-dependent for their survival. This way, a Brahmins son could be a Vaishya or a Shudra if he chose to do the work which they did, or a Kshatriya, if he chose to fight for the protection of the mother-land.
But over the years, as our beliefs got inflexible, and the caste system all the more rigid, we have forgotten the true purpose of this system and it has mutated into a monster, threatening to destroy the peace and integrity of our nation. Today, we are a nation that is struggling to keep up with the pressure of every single community wanting to be classified under a certain “list” of underprivileged or backward classes!!! If it weren’t for the graveness of the situation and the impact of such actions on the national sense of well-being, these demands and protests seem hilarious. What a shame it is for a nation that is constitutionally “Secular”; people would today prefer if they were classified as backward or underprivileged, rather than a developed or developing society.
It is true that over the years, the O.B.C.s and the S.C. and S.T. population have been witness to injustice at the hands of a society which heralded the horribly contorted, disfigured and misunderstood “Caste Laws”, taking cover under the excuse that they are written in the Vedas. It is equally true that as a result of ages of oppression, certain communities really need to be “rescued” and their standards of living revived. But is giving them reservation everywhere possible the only option? I am personally not against the concept of reservation, all I feel is that the criteria which make an individual worthy of reservation need to be revised. Is it enough that a person be eligible for reservation just because he belongs to a certain caste? Are there not very poor Brahmins or extremely rich and educated Dalits in our society too? Keeping these facts in mind, I feel that the basis for reservation should not be an individual’s caste or religion, but their economic status. This will ensure that some extremely bright students and individuals who are unable to rise up and be successful will be granted an equal opportunity to do so, and their development will not be hampered just because they cannot afford a proper education.
Another disturbing policy of the Indian government, over the years, has been the introduction of these “reservations” and “quotas” not only in elementary and secondary education, but also in institutes of higher education as well as in all public sector firms. A big problem which arises out of this is that there is always a fear that the excellence of such institutes, which are famous for their high standards, is at stake. Most institutions get forced to admit students with really low scores, just because they have to satisfy a certain “quota”. Isn’t this ultimately undermining the legacy of excellent standards that such institutions uphold? Today, we need to ask ourselves, how many of us would like to visit a doctor who got into medical school, not because of being meritorious and worthy, but because he qualified under reservation?
Reservation in education is not wrong, so far as it helps an individual to attain elementary and secondary education and that too when it is based on the economic status, and not the religion or caste of an individual. This will ensure that every individual is equally equipped to face competitive examinations or any other kind of competition to build a respectable career, but admissions to institutions for higher education need to be strictly based on merit. Furthermore, half of the government jobs are already reserved for the backward classes, and there still seems to be need for more, and then there are further talks of introducing reservation in the Private Sector too. If we carry on at such a pace, it is imminent and ironic that one day, those not included in the reserved categories will end up needing reservation too.
Having reservation in any field above the elementary and secondary levels of education is only diluting the talent of our country, as because of such provisions, many extremely meritorious students fail to get admissions into institutions of their choice while their supposedly less privileged counterparts who have sometimes even less than half their marks, are easily granted admissions. This situation is just a vicious cycle and will keep repeating itself. It is akin to giving permanent crutches to those who can be taught to walk and run, and simultaneously crippling others who are already competent enough.
Today, a general category student or a person seeking a job, might be experiencing the same woes that the oppressed classes have been experiencing for years, but this role reversal is only helping to breed further contempt between the two sections into which this process of reservation has divided the society, instead of offering a solution. Instead of eradicating the problem, are we not perpetuating it by making caste a clear criterion for basic things like education and jobs? Are we not breeding further resentment and divisions among our own people? Do two wrongs make a right?
As a solution to this dilemma that the society is currently in, I feel that the oppressed and underprivileged in our country need unabated access to a rock solid primary and secondary education system, after which they need to be treated as equals, not with condescension. They have been discriminated against for far too long. Let us not demean, belittle and alienate them further by offering them quotas based on their caste, but rather try to enable them to step up to the competitive world and really prove their true mettle.
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