I have serious reservations about the policy of reservation, which has understandably become an emotive issue. With limited number of seats in the premier educational institutes, the policy evokes sharp reactions as the quotas further shrink the number of seats in the general category demoralizing and frustrating the meritorious youth.
Nobody can deny the need to bring the backward in the mainstream; to give them opportunities and restore their dignity but the affirmative action in the form of reservations creates reverse discrimination. Every new student who is admitted on the basis of quota, someone else is denied admission. Moreover, once reservation is extended; it is not easy to withdraw it. This is borne out by the past experience of reservations for S.Ts and S.Cs which has become a permanent policy in recruitment and admissions. The caste based reservations are baseless, also because many of the so called backward classes are not socially, economically and politically disadvantaged any longer viz. Yadavs in Bihar , U.P and Jats in Haryana constitute the ruling class. While ignoring merit; backwardness cannot be made the passport to specialized courses. We need quality professionals coming through the merit and not the second rate candidates making backdoor entry through the reservations.
By fixing quotas for the backward classes govt. wants to project itself as the messiah of the OBCs, but giving entry to a few hundred backward students in elite institutions will not uplift the backward and downtrodden. Actually, it is a cruel joke played on them because the better off among them belonging to the ‘creamy layer’ grab the seats , leaving the multitudes of backward languishing in poverty and backwardness, unaffected and untouched by the reservation policy.
What kind of social justice we are talking about when in the name of affirmative action more injustice is being heaped on the society. How do we justify the injustice to a poor student belonging to supposedly ‘upper classes’ who is equally disadvantaged, though not because of social factor, but due to economic reasons? In competitive exams, where education and coaching play crucial role; it is not the social divide, but the economic divide which tilts the balance. Also, there are gross inequalities arising due to rural-urban divide where the dice is heavily loaded in favour of urbanites.
Reservation is too simplistic a solution to the inequalities There are no short cuts and quick fix solutions to the emancipation of the backward .If the govt. is serious about its agenda , it should strike at the root by bringing the under privileged into the mainstream, for which quality education at primary and secondary level is the answer. The students belonging to backward classes do not need crutches but are to be equipped with the strength of merit through coaching and training so that they enter through the open competition not sneak through the backdoor wearing the humiliating ‘quota tag’. Entering the hallowed portals of learning is not the end of the battle but the beginning of the struggle to complete the specialized course in the stipulated time for which merit is must.
Published in the Financial World June 2007