A Slice of Reservation Pie

My last post about being helpless citizen was about several issues including recent increase in OBC quota. Many who responded to the posts through comments, emails, and phone calls happily ignored rest of the issues (like sex education, religious discrimination at temples, restrictions at workplace) and shared their own opinion on the issue of reservations. Reservation certainly seems to be an issue that struck a firm chord with most of us.

And why would it not be? One of the best colleges of the country, St Stephens reserves 60% seats for various ‘backward’ sections of the society! Sachar Committee submits its report recommending reservations for a ‘minority’ religion. The entire religious community, in turn, marches to Nauchandi Ground of Meerut to strategize how to demand their ‘reservation’ rights! An entire state is victim of bloodshed and brought to standstill because a particular community wanted to be given a backward class status.

Gujjar Protest 1

This forced me to explore this issue in detail.

It seems our politicians are firmest believers to explore the boon of reservations. After 60 years of independence, when we have retained reservations all along, backward classes still remain backward. It would be then safe to conclude that actual benefits and implementation of caste or religion-based reservation policy is debatable.

It is easy to understand why politicians are staunch advocates of these religion and cast-based reservation quota. We, despite being the largest democracy in the world, have not been able to rise about caste and religion-based politics. “Minority appeasement” is a cliché yet predominant element of Indian politics. This is a country where a Supreme Court decision can be revised to appease the sentiments of a particular religion. (Remember Shah bano?)

Our fathers of Constitution did not like the term “minority” and they certainly did not see reservations as solution for so-called “inclusive growth.” The reservation, as observed by them, was to end after 10 years of independence. Visit this blog to read more about it.

Sadly, vote bank-centered politics has not seen a single government that would dare to remove reservations; instead they use this as an election promise. Result: Instead of riding above petty caste-based identities, we strictly hold on to them. More castes and religions want to be called backward classes to gain reservations in educational institutions and jobs. Castes are competing with each other and lobbying with politicians to get the coveted Scheduled Tribe (ST) or Other Backward Classes (OBC) tag. I thought this was the age of ‘India Shining’ with Sensex crossing 15, 000 mark!

If you think I am exaggerating, think again. Week-long gujjar agitation in Rajasthan under Colonel Kirori Singh Bhainsala has already cost not only 30 lives, but also caused a loss of about 12 crores! Gujjars, who already have OBC status were causing a ‘rights movement’ to get the ST status! Why because their arch competitor caste Meenas have ST status thus have an edge over them when it comes to attaining reserved seats in local legislative bodies. It got resolved temporarily after chief minister promised to consider the request.

Loss of Life and Property during Gujjar Protest

I have a hunch they may come back again. The gujjar leader Col Bhainsala admitted that he made a mistake in calling off the agitation on just being granted meeting with the chief minister. You see, it was a slip of the tongue, he explained to Karan Thapar on his show Devil’s Advocate. This time, if these castes clash, it could be harder to contain them.

I have three important points to make:

1. If the fact that only creamy layers have been benefiting from the reservation is evident for years, then why have we not put all the reservations on the hold till we evolve a strategy to extend benefits of the reservations to the actual down-trodden and backward sections of the society? To make sense of my point, I perhaps first need to define what a creamy layer is. Creamy layers are those fortunate generation of backward classes who have already bore the fruits of reservation while securing coveted positions in institutes or learning and later in coveted government positions. Their children again seek to do the same, the benefits of reservation do not extend to other backward sections. Communities classified under Most Backward Castes (MBCs) such as Bhangis, Dhobis and Khatris have remained untouched by reservations.

Read this post about creamy layer to have a better, realistic perspective you can identify with. However, you can get the factual government perspective of creamy layer, actually a bureaucratic term, at the official web site of National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC).

2. I watched in Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate that our leaders had no idea about the exact population of the backward classes in our country. The government figures about them are contradictory. When we do not know how many people from backward classes we have in our country, how can we decide a percentage of reservation for them?

Read these transcripts of Devil’s Advocate interview with Chidambaram, Arjun Singh, and Kamal Nath where Karan Thapar pointed out irregularities in figures about backward classes as laid out by various government organizations such as NSSO or Mandal Commission. Karan Thapar used these facts with relish to trap his quota-favoring politician interviewees. :)

3. Poverty knows no caste. I read in Outlook, there are several Brahmins who eke out their living doing tasks as cleaning toilets, pulling rickshaws, etc. Read this yet another lopsided yet truthful reality about backwardness of so-called upper classes today. So if we have to have reservations, it should not be caste or religion based rather be on actual economic and social backwardness. Caste-based and religion-reservations do and will fuel casteism and feelings of communalism. I remember reading interviews of random college-going kids after Arjun Singh’s announcement of increased reservations for OBCs. One of them said: “These reservations are forcing me to hate my SC/ST peers.” Her implied hatred in the words has stayed with me ever since.

I, like my fellow citizens, am not against upliftment of backward classes, like Arun Shourie, I believe there are several better constructive ways to see them rise. Read his thoughts here on Devil’s Advocate interview, I wish Karan Thapar gave more opportunity to his interviewees to speak. :) Argument that certain classes or religions have been exploited by some so-called upper classes for centuries is not a justification to deprive the meritorious and enflame ill-bred casteist feelings in the name of development. Ever wonder why in Bengal, they call SC “Shonar Kathi” meaning “golden wand” and ST “Shonar Tukdo” meaning “a piece of gold!”

My parting shot, in a country where we reservations for almost everybody including muslims in southern states, our politicians at helm have never been able to pass the women reservation bill! Gender appeasement is not-so-necessary, you see. Interesting, isn’t it?

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14 Responses to “A Slice of Reservation Pie”


  1. 1 iamaclairvoyant August 13, 2007 at 5:20 am

    The way things are progressing, I wont be surprised if the supposedly Upward Caste ends up being the Backward Caste in a decades time.

    On the other hand, villages still continue to reel under poverty. If the whole purpose of reservation is to uplift the backward classes of the nation, why is reservation not percolating to these villages?

    I guess noone has the answer. We just continue to accept what is happening around us and every spark of revolution that is started fizzles down after a couple of days. And India keeps shining all the way. After 60 years of independence….

    Jai Hind…

  2. 2 sidhusaaheb August 13, 2007 at 8:45 am

    The fact that reservation is not a viable solution and does little to help the sections of population that it is supposed to help, has become evident over the past 60 years. The politicians are well aware of this. However, their lust for power and the ‘vote-bank’ politics resulting from it does not allow them to acknowledge that.

  3. 3 rambodoc August 13, 2007 at 9:38 am

    One of the most important facets in the anti-reservation opinion block is that there is hardly a cogent philosophical attack on the morality (or otherwise) of reservation.
    Essentially, this is a form of collectivism for material gain (read loot). The individual is not important, only his caste or tribe status is. This is akin to my individuality being irrelevant against my being a Muslim or Sikh or a female, or name any collective.
    Those who are promoting reservations are shameless moral criminals. Those who are opposing it merely on practical grounds are never going to succeed, unless the fight becomes spearheaded by the moral nature of the cause.
    Congrats for a good post. I found you through my good friend Mahendra’s blog.

  4. 4 Poonam Sharma August 13, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Rambodoc,

    The best line I liked in your comment is:
    “This is akin to my individuality being irrelevant against my being a Muslim or Sikh or a female, or name any collective.”
    That my identity is nothing more than my caste or religion is what is the biggest failing of this whole reservation system. I strongly object to it.

  5. 5 ish August 25, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    It’s been 60 years now that we’ve been independent but as you’ve said, we have not been able to solve certain problems. We have only managed to aggravate them. Reservation is one of them. The politicians are into reservations for their own benefit. They do it only for the votes. This worked in the past but they forgot one important thing. This is a new India and the youth of this country knows what’s unfair and they have the courage to speak up against it. This is what led to those widespread protests. I find Arjun Singh and Ambumani Ramadoss very funny indeed. I don’t know what they thought while making their statements and policies. Sometimes, I just wish I could be Karan Thapar and just rip them apart with my words. I really like that show, Devil’s Advocate.

    Technically speaking, when this constitution was formed, it was aimed at providing an equal standard of living to all the people. Hence it suggested some special rights for the poor and the backward so that they could be brought at par with the normal people. It’s sad to see that the OBC’s etc have misused this provision of the constitution and have demanded things which are completely unreasonable. Reservation is fine to a certain extent. But it is outright silly to deny the middle and the higher class students admissions into the college just because they happened to be born in rather reasonable families? That is not equality.

    Reservations also mean that we might get students of a caliber less than what the institution actually demands. We cannot have sub-standard people studying in IIT’s just because we had to implement reservations. The government should rather aim at helping the backward classes attain education the normal way and then participate in the competition amongst the others. Getting admission into a college on a backward class/OBC seat is not good for the particular backward class person either. It is demoralizing and moreover, there will be a certain distrust amongst the other students and this person will be made to have a bad time.

    There is a basic defect in the way backward classes are handled in our country and the government needs to do something about that. But hey, we are forgetting that our ministers are more busy doing Left versus Right on the Nuke Deal. When the coalition parties don’t even agree with each others policies, then what the hell can a country do?

  6. 6 rameshindiatimes September 5, 2007 at 12:05 am

    I am usually bugged by the shortsightedness of the people who discusses again and again the reservation issues as to whom to provide this sweet piece of cake.

    “Why are not we discussisng the issue of reservation to all?”

    Or precisely, since the question of reservation occurs only because of insufficient number of schools, colleges or whatever facilities they are fighting for , why dont we ever discuss how grossly politicians have failed to create these facilities and to cover up that time to time “creating and raising” the issue of reservation which can subsequently be used as milestone for next electoral battle.

    Why dont they ever tried to plug the holes in the political system ,which helps them to create incentive for themselves, that drives people like Mr. Gujjar mentioned in the article to cover any lengh in the exploitative politics.

    I strongly feel that the solution to scarce resources can’t be equitable distribution of available resources rather to create more resources which would be sufficient for all. Thus my discussion agenda will be how to make politician provide 100% reservation to all rather help them apportion the percentage among the deprived (including so called deprived).

  7. 7 kartick September 6, 2007 at 5:12 am

    “All are equal but some a re more equal than others”- George Orwell in Animal Farm..

  8. 8 Poonam Sharma September 6, 2007 at 6:06 am

    Ramesh: “I strongly feel that the solution to scarce resources can’t be equitable distribution of available resources rather to create more resources which would be sufficient for all. ”

    That is a good point you made that I meant but could not discuss in my post.

    Yes, idea is to have 100% seats open to all, faitly without corruption. Idea is to increase possibilities and opportunities for all and not restrict to a particular category based on, of all things, caste and religion.

    Kartick: That is quite apt. :) But are you referring referring to reserved categories as more equals?

  9. 9 kartick September 6, 2007 at 6:16 am

    what i meant is that within the reserved category itself some are more equal than others…those who got the benefit once ..only their kith n kins r benefitted so within the reservation class itself some have become more euqual than others..

  10. 10 arvind December 10, 2007 at 7:44 am

    again the same thing,.. by reserving seats for a special community the goverments main motive is too acquire the vote bank of that particular community..other than that i see no genuine reason ,,,
    and colleges are too sentimental about theri origin..
    a college run by a christian minority reserves most of the seats for christians …almost same for many other minority institutions.. there is no law to forbid this method of admitting students like this..and i dont see any thing coming in the near future as well..
    our country needs fresh heads to ponder upon the various socio economic problems..and i know nothing will happen overnight but some day we have to start…
    the problem is still people like vajpayee are running the govenment who are hardly able to speak.
    its time for people like rahul gandhi to take over…
    for me the root of evey problem lies in the way our country is run..

  11. 11 Poonam Sharma December 11, 2007 at 4:43 am

    @True, government reserves seats for vote bank. Now they wanna get Muslim reservation based on Sachar Committee report. I doubt anything will change if Rahul Gandhi comes.

    THis guy yet needs to show some maturity. Moreover, I was all ga ga about young MPs. I was so optimistic. But you know Sachin Pilot he spearheaded gujjar movemnt for reservation with Bhainsala. They can’t afford to let their community down too. :( Sad isn’t it?

    (Btw, Have you ever wondered why we never know what Rahul Gandhi’s qualifications are? He went to Trinity or Cambridge but no one is sure if he got the degree. Congress in mum about it.

  12. 12 arvind December 11, 2007 at 7:20 am

    well,, i agree to some point with you..
    by rahul gandhi i mean young bloods..anyway he cant be that worse …..
    in my opinion he would better than the 60 ,70year olds..
    even i dont know what his qualifications are :( :) i dont know what reaction to give for that

  13. 13 Poonam Sharma December 13, 2007 at 6:01 am

    Perhaps Rahul Gandhi is not as bad. But there is no guarantee he will turn out good. They all turn out to be same. :(

    I feel both National parties (Congress and BJP) are shit. We need a part by the young, for the young (not only young though) just as in Yuva. Only such things never become a reality.


  1. 1 Why I Blog? « Visceral Observations Trackback on September 4, 2007 at 5:59 pm

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