Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Going backward and forward

What is the cause of backwardness? What is the need to entitle backward castes for reservations?

Is it because they have some “inferior” traits passed on through their genes?
If yes, then should backward caste children who have been adopted by forward caste parents be entitled to the reservations? And vice versa, should forward caste children who have been adopted by backward caste parents be excluded?

If no, is it that the environment in which they live makes them backward?
(Then in the reverse of the earlier point, what about the adopted children?)

Is it because their parents may not be educated?
(Then, should the criteria for determining backwardness be the “non-education” of parents, rather than the caste?)

Coming to reservations, I hear often that reservations are required because the backward castes have been oppressed for centuries. Is there any proof that any of MY forefathers have oppressed them?

Even if there is, should I be subject to punishment because of what my forefathers may have done?

I have read that in those days when the caste system was more pronounced, there were four varnas – brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya, sudra – each having their specific functions to perform. In my limited knowledge on the subject, Brahmins were supposed to be the scholars, the kshatriyas were the warriors, the vaishyas were the merchants and the sudras were the service providers to the other three.

By virtue of pursuing these functions over generations, these castes must have acquired certain traits – talking generally –, which are required for effective performance. For instance, making sweeping generalizations, Brahmins may have acquired a scholarly bent of mind, the kshatriyas may have acquired aggression, sportsman skills, etc. the vaishyas may have acquired business acumen and guile. What about the sudras? Well, is there nothing desirable about them that is worth acquiring. So they have to be uplifted through reservations?

Alright, but are “scholastic skills” the only traits desirable in these days? Shouldn’t then Brahmins be given reservation in sports and businesses? Or Kshatriyas be given reservations in education and businesses? Or vaishyas be given reservations in education and sports?

If it is indeed genes which cause backwardness, then how many generations would it take for a particular family to evolve itself out of backwardness?

Or then, is it the environment?

While equal access and opportunity of education to all is certainly a noble objective, do we want everyone to be educated equally? Is that scenario possible?

Shouldn’t individual abilities determine the level upto which a person can be educated? If everyone is educated to the same level, would that mean that there will be nobody available for doing the so-called “lower level” jobs? Is that scenario acceptable to us?

Or, is it that people (regardless of their caste) would still be available to do the “lower level” jobs, albeit being more educated and hence having more aspirations, but forced to do them due to sheer market forces (demand and supply of jobs)? Would that be a happier situation for these people?

I am not even going to the more common-sense issues of what is the use of having reservations at post graduate level when the ones that really require upliftment do not have access to even primary education.

So, are there any reasonable answers to any of these questions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The idea behind reservation is to break the vicious
cycle of poverty and societal alienation.
The poor remain poor because they dont get the same
access to education/resources required to compete with the rich on
equal footing.
Then it can be argued that shouldnt the basis for reservation be
economic backwardness?
Sure..and NOW a lot of people advocate for it.
but the condition that prevailed at the time of its drafting was different.

The societal alienation of backward caste prevalent during post independence
was way more than what it is today ( though its not enviable even today).
The problem of alienation from mainstream was an additional disadvantage faced
by backward caste apart from poverty ( which ofcourse spared no caste).
Reservations as a means for upliftment might sound derogatory for whom its intended => as if these
people can never make it if given an equal chance.
But how could you ensure ( in those days) that everybody gets an equal chance??....when a sizeable majority
considered it a sin to even interact even MINIMALLY with the other. Forget living, working, eating and playing together.
Extra-ordinary times REQUIRED extra-ordinary measures.

Also, the idea of reservation was that it stop to exist after a defined time frame...i remember reading
somewhere BR Ambedkar estimated it to be 50-60 years...thanks to divisive nature of political gains, it is not happening
now or anytime soon. and THAT is worrisome.
My point is, if you are asking "why reservation at all"...you are asking a wrong question.
The question is rather if the intended benefits have reached the target population.
if its not working, why? should reservations continue in its present form ? would reservation in primary-schools and
coaching classes be fairer than reservation in jobs/higher education?