Sunday, June 23, 2024

Why Reservation? – Obverse Realities


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By Ananya S Guha

There has been a lot of writing, hue and cry over reservations for the ‘scheduled categories’ promotions in Government jobs. The Bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha. The reaction is predictable- reservation for jobs is bad enough, why now even in promotion? I don’t see the need of such a vocal debate. Once reservation is accorded it must be carried to its logical conclusion.

The fact is that certain societies in our country are still regarded as ‘untouchables’; they are still looked down upon with the worst kind of condescion and even animadversion. That is why conversion into different religions has taken place, and is still taking place. Unless we get rid of the halos surrounding our little heads, we cannot ask for a just and egalitarian society, manacled by an obsolete caste system. Yes, caste system was ordained for specific division of labour, but this degenerated into racism. Even now in the typical ‘arranged’ marriage inter caste marriages are anathema, and the blue eyed Brahmin feels that he or she has been mandated by God to perform certain tasks. Hence in pujas or shraddhas, only such people can perform the rites.

Things came to such a head in the eighties and nineties that mass conversions into Christianity and Islam took place in regions such as South India. Even now conversion is going on silently and the reason is simple: high caste superciliousness. Now the question is what relation does this have with reservations in jobs and promotions? The point is that such people who are divested of social and economic rights have to be protected by laws of the land which ensures that their legitimate rights as a human being are not obliterated or traduced. If they are not given social recognition as human beings on equal basis then the state must protect them, in terms of law enforcement and social, economic and human rights dignity. To attack and assail them even at times physically for conversion is an infringement on human rights and dignity.

Even now the tribals of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have no access, or little access to education and livelihood. It is going to take a long time for them to come into the social and economic mainstream. They are not in a position even to get the benefits of such reservation because of appalling socio-economic backwardness. The same which is true thirty years back is true today. Certain areas of the country as the ones mentioned above have a large tribal population where only Christian Missionaries have made inroads to give them the light of education. Anyone is welcome to do that, but how many are doing it?

When I was studying in an elite school in Shillong, there were very few tribal students from North East India. Most of us were Assamese and Bengali boys and also sons of Army or Air Force Officers. Shillong was then the capital of Assam. This was because the tribal societies lagged far behind the others in terms of socio-economic conditions and exposure to a larger world. Today if they are reaping the benefits of a more equitable society, then what is the harm?

Again, a promotion by means of the roster system in Central Government Offices is nothing new, benefitting reserved categories. So what is the noise all about? To say that once again it is a political gimmick, may be to some extent true, but it is also part of a larger reality we must accept and challenge.


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