Why Caste Based Reservation Is Necessary

 

by Dr Umakant

 

With regards to the question as to how long should caste based reservation continue there can only be one answer. Until and unless the attributes of the caste system vanishes how could people belonging to different castes as arranged in an iniquitous relationship be treated equal. It is only the complete annihilation of the caste system that would justify the need for doing away with the caste based reservation.

 

Those who believe in political democracy must also believe in social and economic democracy or else the goal of establishing an egalitarian society based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity would remain meaningless.

 

Equality is always among equals and to treat unequals as equal is nothing but perpetuating inequality. A recent outburst of a senior Congress Party leader against caste based reservation is more a reflection of his Brahmanical mindset than based on any sound logic. It also defies any meaningful sense that such a senior leader holding an important position of influence within the Congress Party leadership should air his personal views in such an irresponsible manner.

 

The subsequent rebuttal by the President of the Congress Party barred the issue from snowballing into an undesirable political controversy. But the simmering discontent remains among a large section of the upper strata of Indian society on why should the reservation policy continue? And if it has to be there it should be on the basis of economic criteria and not on caste.

 

It is pertinent in this context to explain here that caste based reservation policy that is followed in the country is not an anti-poverty programme of the government. Caste based reservation policy is also not a charity that the government bestows on the wretched of this country who have been at the receiving end of humanity, human rights, equality and justice since millennia.

 

In actual sense the caste based reservation stands for parity, representation, human rights and is a defence mechanism against any and every case of caste based discrimination and exclusion. Reservation policy is a means to have equal say in the policy making and governance as well. It is not against merit at all.

 

Those who oppose it on such grounds that it affects merit and efficiency and that is why the caste based reservation should not be allowed to continue any more fail to see the stranglehold of the iniquitous and anti-human rights aspects of the caste system.

 

Treating a section of society which remains on the margin in every possible sense unworthy of being equal is nothing but the hidden prejudices of the so called upper strata of Indian society who clamour to maintain their hegemony in every sphere as they and only they have a rightful claim to rule over others.

 

The hostility against the caste based reservation issue bears testimony to the fact that any attempt to alter the power structure in society, economy and polity is met with contempt for those who are lower in the caste hierarchy. It also goes to the extent of expressing their true Brahmanical mindset by displaying their so called superior intellect, intelligence, merit and efficiency in a filthy and injudicious manner and without any qualms against such nasty behaviour of branding the “Other” in a derogatory sense.

 

The nefarious designs of the caste systems that thrives on graded inequality is still prevalent in its multiple forms which manifest itself in discrimination, exclusion and violence for the people lower in the caste hierarchy through highly dehumanising practices. There is thus a need for caste based reservation to continue as long as the caste system continues

.

One always gets to hear the argument that the original reservation policy was only for a period of 10 years and why should it continue now or in future. Those who speak on such lines do not even know which reservation policy was meant for a period of 10 year. Was it the policy related to political reservation or the policy related to education and jobs? They do not even bother to find out why the political reservation has continued when it was meant for only 10 years.

 

Whether the reserved constituencies in the State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha are actually benefitting the Dalits and Adivasis? The manner in which delimitation of these reserved constituencies have been put into practice leaves much to be desired. The fate of the winning candidates is always dependent on the non-Dalit and non-Adivasi electorate. It is thus virtually impossible for any genuine candidate to be elected from these reserved constituencies.

 

This is the only reason which could explain the largest number of reserved constituency successes by the parties like the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress Party and even others whose core base of electoral support are found to be among the non-Dalits and non-Adivasis caste and communities. The joint electoral system which was forced upon the Dalits as a result of the blackmailing by none other than Mr. M. K. Gandhi through the Poona Pact in 1932 as against the separate electorate system has for all practical purposes closed the door for any meaning political participation for Dalits in the country.

 

Moreover, the demerits of the first past the post system is being ignored and the separate electoral system or the proportionate representation system have been so much demonised that the need for electoral reforms in country remains a non-issue.

 

There is a need to extend the reservation to the Dalit Muslims and Christians and in private sector as well. Reservation policy is one of the ways to empower the disempowered. Several other special measures are needed for complete social transformation and economic emancipation.

 

The arbitrary manner in which the special provisions are being implemented could be seen in the almost all the programmes and policies at the central and state level. An example which best illustrates this insincere approach by the governments both at the centre and in the states is about the Special Component Plan (SCP) which is being renamed as Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP).

 

There are three important elements attached with these planning initiatives- proportionality in terms of budgetary allocation as per the percentage of population, non-diversion of funds and the funds thus allocated cannot be allowed to lapse.

 

But the sad story so far has been such that not only the state governments but also the central government has violated the aforementioned three elements of SCSP and TSP. Hundreds and thousands of Crore's have not been allocated in the annual budget both at the central and state level. Funds which have been allocated have not been used properly and on the contrary they have been diverted and also allowed to lapse without being used at all with complete impunity by the duty bearers.

 

Even in the current interim budget presented by the Finance Minister on February 17, 2014, the budgetary allocation under SCSP and TSP amounts to only 8.76% and 5.53 % respectively as opposed to 16.6 percentage of Scheduled Caste and 8.6 percentage of Scheduled Tribe population. The allocations made under SCSP and TSP are to the tune of INR: 79,364.38 Crores where as the total allocations should have been INR: 1, 39, 941.14 Crores.

 

That means in actual terms Dalits and Adivasis have been denied budgetary allocation running as high as INR: 60, 576.76 Crores. How could inclusivity be ensured in a situation where the government itself violates its own policies and programmes?

 

On the other hand the revenue foregone of several types to the corporate sector runs into hundreds and thousands of crores too. A venture capital fund of a meagre amount of 200 Crore is announced in the current interim budget with the aim of supporting small entrepreneurship among Dalits.

 

The question that needs to be asked is: why the priorities of the government are so lop sided that it shamelessly denies Dalits and Adivasis their due share in the budgetary allocations and gives a token gift in the form of a venture capital fund of only 200 crore? This certainly is a case of wilful negligence and nothing else. What is well entrenched is the institutionalised impunity and what is missing is the accountability in the system.

 

No meaningful intervention could be possible if impunity enjoyed by the duty bearers is not cracked and if the state and its several agencies are not held accountable. Should Dalits and Adivasis not demand reparation for injustices of all kinds that are still continuing?

 

With regards to the question as to how long should caste based reservation continue there can only be one answer. Until and unless the attributes of the caste system vanishes how could people belonging to different castes as arranged in an iniquitous relationship be treated equal. It is only the complete annihilation of the caste system that would justify the need for doing away with the caste based reservation.

 

Those who believe in political democracy must also believe in social and economic democracy or else the goal of establishing an egalitarian society based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity would remain meaningless.

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