New Delhi – The emergence of Hardik Patel as the new leader of otherwise prosperous “Patel community” in the state of Gujarat is not necessarily a bad development for Indian democracy. He is demanding that the Patels, like other backward classes, must be given the reservation facilities in education and government jobs. He also says that his community will not opt for reservations if the system of reservations is abolished altogether. Many political pundits may dismiss Hardik’s demand as outlandish, butin my considered view, he must be appreciated for at least making all of us think on a long-needed debate on the system of reservations as such.
The basic idea behind reservations was that these were necessary to render justice to certain sections of the society – Scheduled Castes( “untouchable” as per the perverse practices that crept into Hinduism in middle ages) and Scheduled Tribes (those who literally led separate lives in forests, away from the mainstream). Accordingly, laws were made that the two communities would have reservations in educational institutions and jobs of about 23 percent of the seats or posts. But then these laws were supposed to be temporary and valid for a period of 10 years until 1960. But they have been extended every 10 years since then; so much so that now it is unthinkable that they will ever cease to function, not after even 1000 years if the prevailing political trends are any indication.
Subsequently, the intermediate castes pushed their cases through their increased representations in the Parliament and under the so-called slogan of “social justice” literally grabbed another 23 percent of reservations in education and jobs under the category of “backward classes”. In fact, but for the Supreme Court, they would have got a higher percentage – the Court has limited the quantum of all reservations at 50 percent, making the rest 50 percent open to general competitions). In fact, this directive of the Court has angered the caste leaders and they want the 50 percent limit be uncapped. Besides, some states have devised novel ways – quotas for women, sports persons, physically disabled – to hike the reservation limitsunder their respective jurisdictions.
The reservation system has degenerated to such an extent that now there are demands for reservations for the minorities(particularly Muslims). Champions of quota will also like reservations being extended to the private sector. More dangerous demands in this regard include that reservations should be there not only for entering schools and getting jobs but also for quick promotions if in jobs – that means that a person getting job through quota will supersede his or her superiors effortlessly.
Results of the quota politics in India have been perilous in more senses than one. Quality and efficiency have become big casualties. So much so that I came across this story recently – a leading champion of quota politics, who is a Member of Parliament, went to a hospital for a check up but insisted that he should not be checked up by a doctor who is in job through quota! In fact, that day is not far off when people will avoid doctors and engineers and students will not opt for courses taught by Professors if they have come through quotas. Secondly, reservation-politics has resulted in paradoxical situations in the sense that most of the reservation-facilities have been grabbed or monopolized by those already in good jobs and positions (elites among the so-called discriminated – top bureaucrats and politicians), denying the facilities thus to those who are really needy in their categories.
Thirdly, we have politicians like SharadYadav who advocate that every community must have reservations in proportion to its actual number. Yadav’s perverse logic means that those who opt for smaller families should be punished, not rewarded. It will also mean that talent and hard work are useless and those who have it need to be taken to task. Yadav’s thesis is that “produce as many children as you can, do not educate them properly but demand that the State gives them jobs even if they are not competent enough”. If this thesis is taken to its logical conclusion, it will be the beginning of the end of modern India. We should forget about all those projections and theories that India is emerging as a major global power.
Fourthly, there have been reverse discrimination aplenty because of the quota-politics. Genuinely talented people, many of them are economically much poorer than their counterparts under quotas, are denied admissions in schools and colleges and virtually out of the race for jobs. Because ,all told, in a developing country like India it is the “State” that is the biggest provider of jobs and most important source of education(schools and colleges that are funded by the government. And here, more than half of the seats and jobs that are available go to those who enjoy reservation-facilities. Naturally, there are widespread resentments. In fact, the new phenomenon of Hardik Patel is a reflection of this phenomenon. As a prominent supporter of Patel told the press recently, “ unless we come under reservation, our children will not get admission into the schools and thus be deprived of education”!
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