Which category do you belong?

It was my first day with new job so I was mentally prepared to handle new role, responsibilities, colleagues, boss. Surprisingly, I was warmly welcomed by everyone during a departmental get together that elated me, however, what disturbed me to even greater extent was a question which I had to answer for at least 10 times that very day. I had never imagined that people would be asking me "Which category do you belong?", clearly showing their interest. Obviously 'Disturbing' for me because it is my first Government sector job & it compelled me to think on present scenario and pros-cons of this prevalent system.

A largely debatable topic under present scenario over any forum in this nation has been the term "Reservation". Even since the times of British India, our leaders & activists have been propounding the concept of Reservation. The success of its implementation lies with genuineness of the motive with which the concept was introduced in Indian society i.e. "to address the historic oppression, inequality and discrimination faced by certain communities and to give them a place of coexistence at par with the affluent". 

The concept gets deep rooted into the system on following grounds:
  • Caste 
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Physically handicapped
  • Terrorist victims from Kashmir
  • Sons/daughters/grandsons/granddaughters of Freedom Fighters
  • Migrants from the state of Jammu and Kashmir; 
The list goes on. It has been the need of the hour to include majority of the grounds for reservation except for a few which have been included by the political parties in power to increase their community specific vote banks. Nonetheless, Caste based and Religion based reservations have made to the headlines far more times than any other.

The grossly inadequate representation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes in employment, bureaucracy, politics, education due to historic, societal and cultural reasons represented the inequality prevailing all across the Independent India. The past atrocious behaviour inflicted by the so called upper caste people on others in the form of practice of untouchability had prevented them from getting good education, evolve culturally, entering places of common gatherings and more well known to all of us. This led Drafting Committee to include certain Articles while shaping our constitution to nourishes the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by the Government of India. Thereafter, reservation was extended to this section of society in Government jobs at the time of employment as well promotion, elected bodies & education which was further extended to Other Backward Classes. There have been numerous judgement by the Supreme Court and High Courts, amendments in various Articles of the Constitution by the Government giving rise to debates, controversies, conflicts, dissatisfaction and even riots in certain cases. 

All the developments that have come in the history of reservation that has brought the percentage to such a high level in public sector jobs, government-aided educational institutes and elected bodies can be checked on Reservation in IndiaState governments have been extending reservations to certain sections additionally based on local data & scenario and at times to secure votes from specific sections of community. Political parties have been successfully using this 'Victim card' tactics in their campaigns to confirm their seats.

An individual or a group supporting / opposing the existing Caste based reservations is a commonplace in India which may be over social media (Facebook posts & WhatsApp messages), News channel debates, Dharnas (protests), socio-political gatherings, etc. The debate have always circled around a singular question "Whether the benefits of reservation be given on the grounds of 'Caste' or 'Economy' of an individual / family / community. I would like to draw your attention towards the ground reality socio-economic status of such communities even after getting benefits for almost half a century. Needless to say, minuscule population comprising of families that are affluent of into politics have actually been benefited by these concessions and assurances given.

If we consider the evolution theory and believe that due to the past the genetic make up of people belonging to these castes have undergone changes which makes people from upper caste most receptive to the modern education, and that due concessions should be given to them with respect to qualifying marks etc., then I feel there is also a need that these advantages be trickled down to the ones who need it more than certain others. 

Those supporting it have their set of viewpoints-
  • Upliftment of weaker section is always the duty of Government which can be accomplished by extending reservations to them.
  • Our ancestors have been doing menial jobs and been denied even the basic dignities of life for more than 2000 years and you can't face the music for 70 years.

So are the viewpoints of the ones opposing the concept such as- 
  • He hails from a stronger economical background than me but still and still gets benefits of reservation and moreover of scholarships. (Only about 0.6% of scholarships or student aid in India is based on merit)
  • It is impartial when someone scoring as low as 50-60% of marks I secured in a "Competitive Exam" qualifies for a seat in a particular college or job. (heavy relaxation are done just to fill reserved seats)
  • Casteism and untouchability are a thing of the past and in the present times such things don't exist. (I don't think this is the situation in rural India even today and more campaigns to eradicate this are needed)
  • Due to reservation even in promotion over and above recruitment, Individuals tend to discredit and think for anything but Government jobs. 
  • There is tremendous rise in Individuals leaving the country for better education and job opportuniteven by taking educational loans since the ones in India are maligned by the blows of heavy reservation. 
The Constitution of India is supreme and must not be blindly criticized for it was framed considering India as a Nation. However, numerous amendments have been till date that have altered its essence. This debate shall continue without any outcomes until some amicable solutions are devised by the Ones who control as well as serve this Nation. Most importantly, the vision should must be to achieve cohesive societies with peace & harmony rather than to ensure their seats in elections to come.

Some of the ways forward to resolve this issue which is taking its toll on social harmony in our Nation are summarized below. 
  • A weaker section exists within the ever lasting weaker section over the past few decades. In the interests of neglected sections in the past, there is the need of revamping this existing reservation model to bring out a holistic development all sections of the 'weaker' sections which is possible only when the fruits of reservation trickle down to the targeted sections. 
  • While there are people & families being genuinely benefited by this system, in most cases the benefits might have gone to relatively better placed communities. Say, a student belonging to a reserved category with parents already into a Government job or already rich from the past has access to various resources like quality education, better healthcare facilities, coaching classes without having to think about darkness of future, is sure to do far better than the one from unreserved category with poor financial background those who don't have access to such resources. So reservations based on economical background of an individual must also be taken into account.
  • A path of requisite amendments has to be found out so each Indian has access to basic amenities of life he/she deserves right from the point of being an "Indian". I am not a bureaucrat, sociologist, economist, or any expert, but a way in my view can be restricting the benefits of reservation to a maximum of 2-3 generations within a family so that others also get opportunity and it does not become a family prerogative. 
  • With full fledged push by Government on linking everything from PAN to Paytm wallet to AADHAR, this herculean task is not an impossible since complete history, economy, geography of an individual shall be available at one place similar to Social Security Number prevalent in USA. This database can be suitably data-mined to demarcate the ones that have enjoyed the benefits for long.
  • Quality of a tree and subsequently its fruits, depends on the nourishment it receives during early days. Similarly, standards of affordable Primary and Secondary education are to be raised from the ones prevailing now where subsidized education is of poor quality and convent education is unaffordable. This shall encourage aspiring individuals to show their talent which otherwise fades away due to poor financial conditions irrespective of their category. 
  • The criteria for reservation has always been an evil in ways that are generally been overlooked. It has created a rift within the society for which it was initially created, clearly defeating the objective of introduction. Individuals who receive the blows of rejection due to reservations and their family tend to think negative of people getting benefits out of it, taking them as enemies. 
  • In this era of growing social media usage fueled by multi-fold smartphone usage it becomes critical how the technology is being used. (Please read "So Smart" Phone : A Gadget Tale, my views on Smartphones) It is definitely a platform to share thoughts, believes, news, jokes, glimpse of life moments but also a platform to promote rumour and hatred for any section of society, government or an individual. Reservation is also not spared from its blows and many miscreants are seen spreading rumours leading to hatred. Individually, every one must try to subside anything that has potential to create unrest.
  • At individual level, everyone must come up to mentor at least one child / family needing basic financial assistance which will someday change the society in which we live in.
  • To tackle with the prevailing situation, people are tending to get their fake caste certificate issued to secure future of their kin. A rational realization is needed by both sides to think on it. It is not a benefit to be exploited but to be used by the ones needing it. I still wish for a day when individuals belonging to reserved category shall come up voluntarily to give up such benefits.
  • If any of the reserved seats remain vacant even after relaxing the qualifying criteria as prescribed then either it may be allowed to be filled as an open seat or may be kept vacant till next recruitment whereby only qualified and deserving candidate shall be benefited.
  • Reservations on grounds prevalent in India do not exist in the Developed economies or Superpowers. So only after reviving the nation in totality, this can be subsequently removed to bring about an environment where such benefits shall not be needed.
There are countless reasons to justify or oppose whenever debate arises over this issue. At last, I wish to see changes in present system so that ever increasing bitterness over this issue may not become a reason for our failure as a Nation.

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