Friday, April 19, 2024

Evils of the caste prejudice


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When Dalit and OBC students demand caste reservation in proportion to their respective population in a private university, some people have criticised it by raising the flags of merit and Indian brotherhood. Every Indian state has its quota of Lok Sabha constituencies, for example 29 Lok Sabha seats have been earmarked for Madhya Pradesh on the basis of its population. This is absolutely necessary for the existence of a federal structure. Similarly, reservation for SC, ST and OBC in proportion to their respective population is needed to ensure social justice.
Without reservation in the parliamentary seats on the basis of the population of a state, the regional balance of power would greatly be damaged. In that case, many states of India may not have representation in Parliament because nepotism and regional favouritism in the guise of meritocracy would throw a challenge to proportional representation.
Then Parliament would look like the Indian cricket team where players only from a few states get a chance to represent the whole country. Though there is a regional quota for selectors to minimise regional favouritism but more often than not, selectors face charges even from those who are against caste reservation that a player of his state has become a victim of nepotism.
Just like the state quota for Lok Sabha constituencies is a must to safeguard the interests of all Indian states, the caste reservation is also a necessity for democratic distribution of power among all communities and castes in India. Caste is a reality in India. One in four Indians (27 percent respondents across India) said that the practice of untouchability had been followed in her or his daily life (the 2011-12 India Human Development Survey – IHDS-2).
According to studies conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research in 2016, only about 5% of marriages in India are inter-caste marriages. Caste identity cannot be changed with the change of class. One in four Indians who practices untouchability will not touch even a well-off Dalit. Whereas 95 among 100 Indians avoid marrying even rich Dalits.
Higher castes dominate powerful positions in our country. Now, how could a higher caste selector, who practices untouchability, appoint a candidate from a backward caste in his college or company? The vulnerability of backward castes in our society demands positive discrimination like reservation in their favour in proportion to their population just like footpaths should be reserved for vulnerable pedestrians.
It is necessary to create a level playing field for the marginalised castes through reservation. Untouchability, which taunts the rhetoric of ‘We are Indians first.’ has to take a backseat when marginalised castes get academic and political power.
As a matter of fact, more and more people are realising the necessity of reservation policy in our country. It has been decided that 33 percent seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies would be reserved for women after the next census.
Interestingly, some persons who are against caste reservation, support state quota for parliamentary seats, gender reservation, reservation of seats for senior citizens in buses and trains! They protest when a reserved part of a street (footpaths) is occupied, forcing vulnerable pedestrians to walk on the street. This underlines that there are misgivings about capabilities of backward castes. When Aryans came to India, they saw for the first time in their lives excellent urban planning and civilisation. Our Dalit brothers and sisters carry more DNA in their body of those town planners and engineers than their higher caste counterparts. Dalits have systematically been exploited for centuries and forced to forget who they really are.
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,

Discussions on China, crucial

Having lived in various parts of North East India over the past few decades and having appreciated the people and the environment, I have great respect and love for the region that I belong to. I also revel in the fact that all matters of regional and national interest are discussed and debated actively by the people, the media and the intelligentsia in a spirit of openness and giving space to those holding differing opinions.
It is therefore quite surprising to note that there is no talk or discussion about China in this strategically vital region. Our largest neighbour, the second largest economy in the world, the country claims over 90,000 sq km of North East India’s territory (almost the entire Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Assam as well) is conspicuously absent from public and quite often private discussions. I wonder as to the reasons for this vacuum in public and policy discourse, even as China remains at the forefront of concern for most of the world and not just India.
Through these columns I would like to initiate a debate on the issue of the region’s engagement with and views on India’s pre-eminent rival in Asia – one that has in the past cast a long shadow over the North East region – whether through sustained ideological and other support for the various insurgent groups or through the attempted invasion of the region in 1962 and more recently by flooding the region with cheap and low quality goods that undermine regional industry and its economy, or even attemtping to ‘rename’ places in Arunachal Pradesh!
Such a debate would be constructive and involve members of the public, academics, intellectuals, media persons, those in industry, among others, and aim to set out what role North East India sees for itself vis a vis China and its relations with India. Perhaps your esteemed news daily could take the lead in this endeavour, by devoting a regular China corner to invited opinions and views.
Yours etc.,
NK Sarmah,
Via email

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