The following article focuses on one critical socio-political aspect of independent India on which I have extensively written and campaigned against, the subject being caste based reservations in India. In this article, we will first understand the historical basis of caste, its continuation over the years and then discuss its demerits in the present scenario.
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To begin with, I assume all the readers know that India follows a system of reservations in education, government jobs and public welfare schemes. The basis of these reservations is a person's Caste. Now, caste is defined as a group or sub-group of people who identify themselves of belonging to a particular caste. It is predominantly assigned at birth.
Caste dates back to around 800 years from now when it was used as a method of segregation. People were divided according to the work they did. So, a child born in a family was supposed to keep practising his or her family 's profession and remain a member of their caste.
But it had its ugly side too. Castes were then reclassified into classes. People belonging to upper castes were considered superior to those belonging to lower castes. Our society hence was divided into various social sections, each not allowed to establish a relation with the other except for professional relation which was the basis of castes and classes.
The situation continued well into the British rule. The British rulers used this inherent divide in our society to their advantage by cunningly pitting one section of the society against the other. It worked wonders for them, and they managed to stay put in India simply by fabricating a social wall whose foundations were already present in our country.
Nevertheless, the nation and its people identified their true calling and united to fight and subsequently overthrow the British rule (or misrule).
Now, India was an independent nation, a nation oblivious of its future. We didn't know which path to take or what kind of policies to follow.
Meanwhile, Our founders were very much aware of the current social divide and biases present in our country. They very well knew that large sections of the population were poor and deprived. They were victims of British economic misrule and the age-old caste system. Therefore, the founding fathers decided to make constitutional provisions for them by enlisting certain communities of people as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These people were guaranteed certain benefits (including Reservations) for their social upliftment and enhancement. In my view, it was a brilliant move at that time.
The Other Backwards Classes (OBCs) were added much later in the 1970s and 1980s. OBCs were far higher in number and were considered to be intermediate between non-reserved and reserved classes. So they too were reserved a certain share of benefits.
So far we have seen the social need for caste based reservation. We have understood it was a necessity then. Now, A big question springs up - do we need caste based reservations anymore? And further Are there still some sections which are socially behind?
For the answer, first, consider the second question. When we ask if there are still certain socially undeveloped sections, the answer is - certainly yes.
So what is the solution - Reservations?
Because, if even after seven decades reservations have not been able to pull these sections out of backwardness then they probably will never be able to. Reservation was formulated as a temporary solution to a thousand-year-old problem. The very fact that they have continued for so long tells the story.
Now, coming to the first question. No, we don't need caste based reservations anymore. We need reservations for the poor sections of the society. So, if we need reservations for the poor, then that should be given on the basis of economic condition since financial situation, and income level defines rich or poor. Today, it is a person's poorness and not backwardness which decides the level of education he or she will get, the quality of food he or she will get, the standard of living in which he or she lives.
All in all, we see that reservation on caste basis is entirely flawed and retrograde. It has not only failed in its mandate but has successfully kept the caste issue burning. Probably, India is the only country in which people desire to be called backward even if they are financially well off.
Talking about solutions, what are the possible solutions to this massive problem?
Any solution will have, to begin with, the repealing of the caste reservation. Reservation may be pulled out either completely or gradually over a span of time. We can impose restrictions on those who have income above a certain threshold, keeping them out of benefits, even if they belong to reserved classes. Such a system exists in the case of OBCs and should be extended to SCs and STs as well.
In place, we shall put a system of reservations based on economic condition and income. We can create 2 or 3 classes of the society based on their annual income. People who earlier used to get caste certificates will then have to get income certificates. The lower classes shall be given higher benefits.
Such a solution ensures that the benefits of reservation don't get accrued to only certain sections and their future generations. As progress is made, people will move into the higher brackets thereby creating upward mobility and bringing real prosperity to the masses. Income certificates can be linked to Aadhar and PAN card of an individual to prevent misrepresentation or under-reporting of income. This is a very viable solution to the caste problem.
To make these changes, we need corrective measures by the political class as well as by the ordinary people. Individuals belonging to reserved classes should themselves reject reservation if they are financially well off. After all, the government takes decisions based on the mood of the population and by taking the masses along we can quickly end this mess.
In conclusion, I can just say that in every society there ought to be always some divide. Everyone can never be of the same status either financially or socially. But a tolerant and just society never allows this divide to crop up in the everyday lives of its people. We should strive towards attaining such a society on the foundation of equality, mutual respect and peace.