It’s an open secret. Electoral compulsions compel political parties to do things they would ideally have ignored.
For example, realising the significance of Dalit votes in fulfiling their electoral aspirations, major political parties were seen vying with each other to appropriate Dr BR Ambedkar on his birth anniversary on April 14 and pronouncing vociferously how great was his contribution to the nation.
Self-appointed custodians of competence and excellence never cease to point out that the reservation policy for the socially disadvantaged classes was proposed by Ambedkar for just 10 years.
They attribute failure in governance and lack of progress to the reservation regime and advocate its end as it supposedly promotes mediocrity, divides society and solidifies the caste system.
This policy has not benefited the real needy; its fruits have been plucked by a few castes whose beneficiaries treat them as perpetual entitlements and don’t strive to excel and compete, they contend.
Understandably, they oppose the suggestion for compulsory job reservations in the private sector; they instead recommend better education facilities, capacity building and skill development for enabling the disadvantaged to catch up with others.
These arguments, however, suffer from several basic flaws and don’t take note of prevailing ground realities of Indian society.
Unless the fundamental social and psychological factors are discussed and debated openly, a fair, rational and equitable approach isn’t possible.In making the constitutional provision for reservation for the SCs/STs for 10 years, the founding fathers erred on two counts.
They grossly underestimated the depth and extent of disabilities of the disadvantaged sections and highly overestimated the nobleness and accommodative spirit of the higher castes.
Can disabilities resulting from deprivation of the most basic human rights, including the right to property, education and human dignity for hundreds of years, be overcome in 60 years?
An honest answer is no!
Affirmative action has made modest success; a degree of economic emancipation and upward social mobility has taken place.
However, millions of disadvantaged people still remain on the margin. What can explain the fact that 67 years after becoming the Republic, there are not even five SC/ST members who have won from non-reserved Lok Sabha seats?
Who will vote for them if they contest from general seats? Can an enlightened society evolve without change in mindset and discarding deeply entrenched caste prejudices?
The need of the hour is a serious, unbiased and time-bound appraisal of the reservation policy, and bringing out a white paper on its socio-economic impact and its alleged negative impact on the meritocracy.
Hopefully, the findings would debunk unsubstantiated myths surrounding the issue.
According to a DoPT report, following the reservation policy for so many years, total strength of the SCs/STs in grade one service has barely touched 5 per cent, though they constitute 14 per cent and 7 per cent of India population, respectively.
The government recruits only 3.5 per cent of the total jobs available in the country.
Every year, out of nearly half-a-million civil services aspirants, around 1,500 are recruited.
Thus, 4,85,000 candidates remain unemployed. The same is applicable to state services.
Jobs won’t multiply even if the affirmative policy ends today.
Isn’t the CSR a buzzword all over the world? Undoubtedly, voluntary implementation of CSR will be ideal. But is it realistic?
What about the academia, intelligentsia and the media? These sections of Indian society have instinctively been status-quoist.
Isn’t it ironic that whatever social inclusiveness has taken place in India has been the result of the endeavours of the much-maligned politicians?
Advocates of meritocracy have rabidly been against social inclusiveness as it attacks at the very basis of their exclusiveness.
Without any impartial study to assess the link, if any, between affirmation action and inefficiency, malicious canard is spread that beneficiaries of the reservation policy are mostly incompetent and inefficient.
Southern states implemented 50 per cent reservations in government posts much before their northern counterparts. Are they less efficient?
But the quota system can be streamlined. The Jats in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, for instance, have been dominating classes for ages; they are neither economically backward nor socially.
They don’t deserve reservations? Some OBCs have been tormenting Dalits for ages; now they want their concessions too. No doubt, without massive expansion of education/training facilities with latest technological tools and huge job creation, India can’t progress.
It can’t develop either, if half of its population remain poor and have no stakes in the nation’s prosperity. To meet today’s needs, merit needs new definition.