There has been a lot of talk on reservations for OBCs and BCs. This fresh talk has been triggered by Arjun Singh’s proposal for reservations in IITs and IIMs.
As a Muslim, I consider it basically an internal issue of Hindu society. Though a few Muslim communities are classified as OBCs, as MJ Akbar rightly says, “they are at the bottom of the heap”. However I do have my views on the subject.
Every upper caste person argues that the children of IAS and IPS officers should not be given reservation. One among them is my friend for 35 years. Though they are financially moved up, their social status has not changed much. Social prejudices have remained. I have personally come across many instances in my working life. While SCs and STs suffered for four thousand years, the present day upper caste is showing its intolerance in just fifty years. In my view the upper caste people should be willing to atone for the sins of their forefathers. There are news items very frequently about atrocities on Dalits not far from the cities. In cities upper caste people shed their status once they leave their home for work. But in social circles and at home they are very much upper caste. Out of social compulsion if he visits a Dalit home he puts forward many excuses for not taking even water. Muslims face the same problem.
About reservations for OBCs and BCs it is a different issue. They do not come in the same category as SCs and STs. Here the point is one of environment. How do you expect a boy or a girl from a municipal or Zilla parishad school to compete with boys and girls from Delhi Public School or Meridian or HPS? Infact it can also be argued that the upper caste poor face the same situation. But the difference is the upper caste boys and girls enjoy informal reservation.
Those who enter educational institutions on reservation take the same examinations as others. There are no separate examinations or any separate evaluation systems. Here all are judged on the basis of merit.
If there is no reservation, what is the remedy?
The list of OBCs and BCs needs review. I think much of political pressures have gone into inclusion of certains sections, who really do not fall into the category. OBCs were never subjected to social stigma as SCs and STs did. This should be the first step.
The remedy is in making available uniform education of same standard to every child upto twelfth standard. This will ensure equal level of education for all. This should be the responsibility of the government. One hundred crores are spent every year for maintaining armed forces in Saichin. I do not know how much is spent on free primary education. On an everage each one of us gives fifty to sixty percent of gross earnings to government by way of various taxes. Apart from income tax just calculate the amount that you give as excise duty, sales tax, customs duty (where applicable) and service taxes and professional tax. When you buy soap you pay tax. When you buy any item you pay tax. God! When you buy petroleum products you pay nearly half the cost on taxes. Government is required to be committed to the betterment of everyone, not just the previledged upper castes.
Here are extracts from Unicef reports published in The Statesman of 26th February 2005:
“The Unicef 2005 report also says millions of Indian children are equally deprived of their rights to survival, health, nutrition, education and safe drinking water. It is reported that 63 per cent of them go to bed hungry and 53 per cent suffer from chronic malnutrition.
The report says that 147 million children live in kuchcha houses, 77 million do not use drinking water from a tap, 85 million are not being immunised, 27 million are severely underweight and 33 million have never been to school. It was earlier reported that the country continues to have the highest number of malnourished children under five in the world having one-third of the world’s malnourished children. And every third new-born child in India is under-weight having the risk of impaired health and brain development.
The Supreme Court had earlier held that children’s right to dignified existence must be protected. The court also said that the government should work out a welfare scheme for the children working in pathetic conditions in hazardous industries.
The Child Mortality Evaluation Committee recently reported that around 160,000 infants died every year in Maharashtra owing to malnutrition particularly in the rural, tribal and urban slum areas. It criticised the indifferent attitude of the state government. Other states like Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh faced a similar situation where a number of starvation deaths among children took place. Malnutrition reduces life expectancy and leads to low productivity adversely affecting the country’s economic development.”
This is the plight of the children of underpreviledged.
Till such time the situation is rectified, reservation is necessary for genuine OBCs and BCs. As for informal reservation, upper caste should look within.
Reservation exists everywhere—in employment in private sector, admissions in private schools, promotions in public sectors and many many other fields. I am talking of informal reservation. How does one solve this problem? Infact informal reservation has done a great harm to the progress and development of India.
Some argue that reservations should be for the economically backward. The point they miss or do not even realise that social injustice is much much worse than economic injustice. Social injustice is a stigma and basis for prejudice.
CARTOON IN TOI ON 29.1.2002