With the Government of India rightly saying that ‘The government has no business to be in business’, there have been demands from fringe groups to introduce reservations even in the private sector. In the light of this demand, it is necessary to analyze how much the quota system in education and jobs has benefitted the targeted sections of the Indian society.
Considering the history, it was the demand of a separate electorate for the SCs, siting the accumulated past of repressions, that after the Poona Pact of 1932 between Mahatma Gandhi and B.R Ambedkar got settled with reservation of seats in the legislatures. For the demand of a separate electorate- solution to a distorted and unjust social structure, a result of various factors both within and without the boundaries of Bharat, cannot be the breaking away from the society itself but to mend it from within. Separate electorate somehow tends to divide the nation into various sects separated not due to unique culture but conflicts, thereby forming a ‘Kabilai structure’ that most of the middle east countries are already suffering from. As for the latter, though it was a step taken in the right direction to assimilate the deprived communities into the mainstream society at a time when our country was burdened with the caste-based discrimination, it is time to revisit this arrangement too.
In most of the urban areas, where class difference is taking over the caste ones, inflicting the minds of individuals with the stereotypes related to the latter in addition to the former is what reservation in private sectors would mostly do. Working in corporate organizations and multinationals and studying in colleges and universities, the only thing that would rather keep the caste identity alive in the minds of today’s individuals is the reservation system. One could easily observe this walking past any government university campus where students asking each other’s category is a common thing. This they mostly do to guess about how an individual performed in national or state competition. This also happens in government jobs where people coming from reserved seats are not given much challenging projects. Thus, the quota system is not only failing to eradicate caste discriminations but is also not empowering an individual genuinely. Here empowerment is not mere getting into a college or a job with a regular salary. True empowerment always includes a sense of self confidence, job satisfaction etc. which can be instilled only via improving one’s capabilities. For this, one must work to make roots stronger rather than giving an external support to branches.
One more problem that exists is the widening gap between different sections within these communities. The person, whose ancestors 3-4 generations back were doing dehumanizing jobs for a living are still doing it, while the ones who have become an inseparable part of the central social strata few generations back are the ones mostly benefitting from the welfare policies. Worse is, the former not even knowing what exists for them in the governance to improve their conditions. Even the Dalit leaders rarely are seen working for the people they mostly talk about during the elections. Isn’t it unfair that the child of a powerful minister from the SC/ST community is benefitting from quota seats while a majority within them struggle even to earn daily bread? Shouldn’t the support system thus be made more inclusive?
The purpose of any affirmative action is to ultimately make societies self-reliant- a stage where the very need of such action will not exist. For this, more than the Government, it the people from various sections who need to come up choosing to compete from the open arenas in these competitions once they feel academically strong. For this, privileges and support should be provided at a level when basics are prepared by the Government. Eklavya Model Schools for tribes is a good initiative in that direction. Providing best of the teachers, special tutorials, simulation of open competitions, etc. to the deprived sections of the society would lead us to a genuine empowerment rather than mere benefitting. This would ultimately not only enable an individual to put the discriminatory past behind and move on stronger but would also lead India onto a progressive pathway. At the end, it is not about me or you but about our country that must compete in the global village that exists today. And that competition is concession-less. Perhaps, quite ruthless.