Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reservations About Reservation.

It is ages since I wrote a general post. Now that I am sufficiently charged up to write something, it is about the done-to-death-in-the-media topic of reservation. Why this? Because, I have seen this issue first hand, being a professional graduate from Kerala.

My understanding of reservations in educational institutions and jobs is that they were given to aid in the upliftment of weaker sections of society. A very noble thought indeed. In the olden days, when the upper castes completely held fort, certain sections of society were very much oppressed, so that, it was impossible to see them on par with their upper caste counterparts. With the help of such reservations, a lot many got access to education, jobs and other facilities which helped them improve their quality of life to a great extent.

Now we come to the issue of 2nd and 3rd generation beneficiaries of reservation. These are the people whose parents and grandparents have already benefited from reservation and have quite a cushioned existence today. They cannot be distinguished from their upper caste counterparts and, as per the logic in the previous paragraph, don’t actually need reservation. But, the rule gives reservations on basis of caste, as in the recent government order. Has everyone totally forgotten the real reason behind reservations?

I recently saw on NDTV students who put forth the thought that reservations will only get you a seat, unless you are capable of taking the stress of the studies, you will not get anywhere. How true…

Let me share what I have seen. In my engineering class, there were 2-3 seats reserved for the SC/ST. but, the 2 students who got in through this reservation were found totally incapable of professional education. I have no contact with one, but the other is in touch with me. She is still trying to clear some arrears in various semesters. Till date, she never cleared a single paper in the first attempt. She is not a bad student, but maybe, just not capable of this…

She is not an isolated case. I have seen many others in my college get through piggy backing on reservation and messing up their lives. But I have seen others also, eg. my neighbor, who got an astounding 300 odd rank in the medical entrance and making it in the general category itself, even though eligible for reservation. Nothing can be a substitute for hard work. Reservation can only get a horse to water, drinking or not is the horse’s prerogative…

Personally, I feel that reservation should be given on the basis of economic standing alone. There are a lot of upper castes who are economically backward and unable to make it in general category seats. Don’t you feel they should be given some kind of reservation?

In Kerala, when we fill our application forms for entrance, we have to specify our annual income. If the income is beyond a certain level, you are not eligible for reservation, whatever be your caste. This, I felt was quite the right approach.

But again, here is what I saw. A classmate, whose father was in the gulf, and had annual family income well above the specified limit, managed to get reservation. How? Well, they just got the village officer to sign on the specified documents stating that the income was below the limit. It is that easy. I am not badmouthing anyone. It is just the situation which I am portraying to the best of my knowledge.

Today, people are getting into intercaste marriages just to avail reservation. Recently, there was a case of a doctor who had shown himself to be the adopted son of his house help in order to avail of reservation. The law caught up with him though.

It is understood that granting reservations gives great political mileage to parties. But increasing seats just to accommodate reservation is foolhardy. A look at the infrastructure in most professional colleges will prove this. The existing situation itself is not that great. Then further expansion…

I am not a cynic, but I have no option but think that all the protests will be of no use. Yes, reservation should be there. But the way it is granted should be a transparent process. And with India having celebrated 50 yrs of independence, it is irrelevant to grant reservations purely on the basis of caste.

So I say, I have reservations about reservation!

P.S. The ideas above are my personal opinion. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s sentiments or talk against law. I did 1st yr engineering around 5 years back. The rules might have changed today.