Caste reservation in India is a way to mitigate lost opportunities due to the practice of caste discrimination in India. The reservtions are a part of India’s affirmative action initiative after independence that assured Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward classes representation in key areas like education or government employment.
It is very common among ignorant Indians from privileged castes to see caste based reservations as a form of freeloading on their tax money by the dalits. A lot of people born to privilege grow up so full of themselves and indoctrinated with a world view that puts their priorities above the underprivileged, that it does not even occur to them, that caste is reservation. Their insulated world offers no exposure to what could show them differently.
It does not occur to them that there is no such thing as “tax payer’s money”. After it is paid, it is the country’s tax collection. If there are more people from upper castes who pay tax, it is because there are more people from upper castes who earn enough to be eligible to pay tax in spite of them being the majority of the population.
Regardless, this is not a post about all that. It is a post describing my views on the issue of caste based reservations because I’m tired of saying the same things over and over to people who think they are making wholly original arguments by going “hey why not remove caste based reservations”. So here is where I am.
Why is caste based reservation important?
According to the constitution of India, there are two main goals of caste based reservations. The first, as per Articles15 (4, 5 and 6) of the Constitution of India, is the advancement of socially and educationaly backward classes of citizens like Scheduled Castes (SC), the Scheduled Tribes (ST) Other Backward Classes (OBC) and economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6). The second, based on Article 16 (4) of the Constitution of India is adequate representation of backward class of citizens and economically weaker sections in the services under the State.
What are the implications of caste reservations?
The caste reservations ensure representation in government run educational institutions, government jobs and in legislatures. Vacancies are reserved for STs, SCs and OBCs and if not utilized, may not be filled by candidates from other social strata. This deters that discrimination in these key areas. Among the upper classes, there is a perception that such reservations lower the standards required for securing a seat and there is resentment about the reduced number of total seats available to the general population.
Can reservations fix caste discrimination?
Reservations are not meant to fix caste inequality, which remains a task for the dominant upper castes to get around to addressing. Reservations are meant tomitigate some of the damage from centuries of oppression resulting in limited opportunities for the underprivileged and they prevent caste supremacists from outright denying the less privileged their right to learn altogether. They are effective at achieving both, which is why they meet opposition from the more entitled citizens, who would like access to those opportunities or who are opposed to the upliftment of those they consider inferior.
Aren’t reservations against the idea of equality?
They are, if you think of the current discriminatory status quo as a fair “equal” to maintain. In reality, the caste system is discriminatory. If there aren’t enough people from underprivileged communities who can compete with upper castes on an equal ground, it has to be understood that this lack of “merit” is the result of thousands of years of limiting their access to education and power. The reservations serve to limit the damage from this discrimination and prevent it from happening in areas critical to their empowerment. They may appear to be discriminatory, but in reality they provide a counterbalance to some of the prevailing discrimination.
Why does caste discrimination need to be countered? Why not ban discrimination?
Caste discrimination is already banned. However, it is still practiced, but it cannot be applied to crucual areas like education and jobs because…. reservations. Which is exactly why the privileged want the reservations removed – to be able to discriminate and use the reserved seats for elites as well.
Even with reservations in place, stories abound of colleges keeping reserved seats empty rather than admit dalits, college canteens with separate “thalis” for students according to their caste, colleges with separate canteens altogether on the basis of caste and even midday meals served in schools feeding dalit children poorer quality food or seating them separately from the rest of the students. If they were allowed to deny education to lower castes, make no mistake they would do it in a flash.
Why not simply enforce the ban on discrimination rather than caste reservations?
Discrimination is already illegal in India. In fact, so is murder. Yet court after court is acquitting self confessed brutal mass murderers of dalits. There is no outrage, no pressure on the government to bring them to justice no questioning of those exposed for providing material support to the murderers as they continue to hold positions of power. Do you really think anyone is going to give them justice for being refused a seat?
Why not have reservations for the poor instead of by caste?
This is like saying we will fight one kind of inequality but not another. In my view, both should be addressed, not only one. Discrimination of denial of rights must be combated by ensuring that a proportional space in the whole is reserved for the people at risk of being denied on account of prejudice. No, not the Patels. Poverty, on the other hand does not necessarily need reservations. Lack of economic resources can be fixed with free tuitions and funds to enable study. Particularly worthy students from economically backward sections of society could even be paid to attend college so that they don’t have to drop out in order to earn. This may have an overlap where backward castes and economically backward students overlap, in which case they should benefit from both, of course. Removing protections to one kind of vulnerable group in order to assist another is not a better method, it is fundamental stinginess that refuses to take responsibility for the whole range of assistance needed.
Replacing caste based reservations with those that are economic capacity based will have an extremely predictable result of filling seats with high caste poor people and disenfranchising the lower castes while pretending that this is a more just system.
Understand this. If you understand nothing else.
This is a simple objective of taking the resources (educational/employment capacity is a resource) of a country and handing them to those who are in a better position to monopolize them.
Where access to something that ought to belong to all is defined in a manner that prevents use by some so that the remaining may appropriate their share.
But isn’t competence important? I wouldn’t want to be treated by an incompetent doctor
I don’t think India has any laws forcing you to be treated by a doctor not of your choice. Feel free to check out the surname and prefer to die than be treated.
Competence is indeed important. Here’s the thing. Our education system does precious little to inculcate it and the admission system makes no effort to measure it. Examination marks are not competence. They are merely a reflection of your memorization skills in an age where everyone can look up information in an instant in any case. Even then, a few percentage points does not make anyone clever or stupid. No seriously, you are really not more competent than your friend who got 5% less marks than you, or a stranger you’d prefer to snatch a seat from. To get an idea, in professions not limited by access in terms of percentage, find out the marks the most successful individuals got in their examinations. Most of the time you will find that their education is irrelevant to their chosen profession and that the range of examination scores is more likely to be between 60% and 80% than the high 90s. While it is fine to use it as a uniform method to share the limited resource of seats, arguing that it means that a person getting 80% marks is too stupid to study or be a professional is plain absurd, which you would immediately spot if your head weren’t enveloped in a castesist fog.
The myth of ‘competence’ is another elitist fiction created to instill a bias in favor of those with the ability to spend considerable resources on an ability to memorize and reproduce quickly.
Is it fair that students study hard and are denied seats and dalits can get them if they just pass?
Another elitist myth. That idea that the number of seats reserved for dalits are so vast that any dalit with a whim gets admissions. In reality, dalits too have to work to get admissions and they too get cut off like any other student. Also the idea that low caste people are lazy and not interested in education is an upper caste myth where the lower castes are so objectified as unworthy, that the idea that they too study to create careers simply does not occur to the thoughtless hordes taught to resent their very presence.
And oh, the real reason students struggle to get admissions is not Dalits – they too struggle to get admissions. It is your oh-so-very elite classes that run your country and have not bothered to create educational facilities that are adequate for the population size. This serves all, as the demand and supply rule results in nice fat
bribes donations to… not dalits.
Most people don’t want to discriminate. Why don’t they ensure justice?
Either because they don’t care as much as they seem to, or because they fail.
There are no seat reservations in college canteens that serve people separately by caste anyway. If a college can have separate canteens for dalits, and yet screams outrage that there is a separate admission quota for them, all I can conclude is that they basically want the dalits to vanish and abdicate all the opportunities to the privileged classes.
Caste discrimination is when a news organization fights to show the impunity with which mass murderers walk free, acquitted by courts one after the other and yet, none of the supposed equality supporting people find this an outrage enough to raise a voice for accountability. There is no caste quota for mass murder, in case you were curious.
What about lower caste people who are already privileged? Why should they get donations?
Feel free to create a rule that goes “people richer than XYZ must seek admissions through the general quota” and not occupy seats meant to protect the deprived. That would be the logical move, yes? But that will not happen, because last thing the elites want is for more competition in their “merit”. They’d rather point out to the privileged few and use it as an excuse to deny all.
Wake me up when this bunch of jokers points out to the richest people in India – many of them doctors – many of them running businesses on black money that deprives the country of its due and argue that children of doctors or otherwise rich people must pay the real cost of education of a doctor instead of the massive state sponsorship of the training for all. Yes? No? Why not? We’re talking about people who can afford it still using government provided benefits, right?
Well, a lot of medical students who are in “doctor families” so to say will wade through money to reach the college, learn on massive government subsidies meant to make the training affordable for far poorer people, and then go abroad and sell their services cheaper than doctors there who had to invest a lot of money in their careers. Wake me up when someone has a problem with that and goes children of the rich must pay the real cost of education …
But we can’t have caste reservations forever! What is the answer?
If we can discriminate for thousands of years, we can still go a few hundred years without worrying about reservations being continued too long. That said, the answer to this lies with the elites. If there is no discrimination, the reservations will not matter and can be removed – frankly if there is no discrimination, removing them will not create enough of a difference for anyone to get worked up about it.
The truth of the matter is that the people who always oppose caste reservations have also been implicated in caste crimes. The removal of reservations is just another front of attack to strangle the rise of castes they wish to subjugate in an ongoing caste war. The claims of equality are bullshit as you would see if you scratched even briefly under the surface. OBC and upper caste protests to seek reservations for themselves or have them removed were not forcing the government to do anything it didn’t want to. BJP has wanted caste reservations gone. Who are we kidding?
BJP leaders are also implicated in support to dalit massacres that ranged from money, assistance in procuring weapons, getaway vehicles when surrounded by police during a massacre and political impunity including intimidation of investigation and inquiry proceedings.
These people are going to allow equal opportunity to those whom they helped kill? Who are we kidding here? The minute caste reservations are gone, exclusion on the basis of caste will rise. Your “underprivileged” will overwhelmingly be from privileged castes. By design.
So you tell us what can be done
Recognize caste discrimination for the disease it is. And like any other disease, eradicate it from the country. Monitor cases of caste violence. “Treat” them with justice and social reform. Reduce incidences and when caste discrimination ends or reliably gets justice in judicial process, remove the reservations “vaccine”. Just like the disease it is.
You wouldn’t stop vaccinating the population before a dangerous disease is eradicated, right?
Your move, caste supremacists!
Note: This post is likely to get updated as I encounter more creative arguments on Twitter.