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Monday / March 27.

Do reservations in India benefit the ones who actually need it?

Protests against caste based reservations in India

By Jaya Ranjan

Reservation is a tool used by the government to uplift the weaker sections of society economically, socially and financially. While it was initially supposed to be a temporary measure to eliminate the historic oppression and inequality inflicted on the weaker castes, today it has become a mere political agenda in vote-bank politics.

There is a huge animosity between people who enjoy reservations and the people who do not.

A flurry of riots – unjust demands?

2016 was marked by dissent from socially affluent upper caste communities demanding reservations. Right from the Patidar community in Gujarat to the Jat community in Haryana to the Maratha community in Maharashtra, the country witnessed high voltage protests in different parts of the country united by the same cause of reservation.

The demands of these protests were more or less the same – to roll back reservation or grant OBC (Other Backward Classes) status to these communities as well. A quick background check of these communities reveals the shocking state of affairs in the Indian quota system.

Patils staging protests for reservations in Gujarat

Patils staging protests for reservations in Gujarat | Photo Courtesy: DNA

The Patidar, Jat and Maratha agitation

The Patidars are one of the best and most organised communities of Gujarat. They have all the money, power and connections required to be financially and economically self-sufficient. Also, they enjoy the benefits of belonging to the socially upper caste community. Their demand for reservation seems appalling, or rather ludicrous.

In the name of agitation, vehicles were burnt, organisations and shops demolished – the Delhi NCR region experienced a standstill.

Following suit, many other dominant classes of Gujarat started protesting and those already reaping the benefits of reservation opposed the movements. Inspired by the Patidar agitation in Gujarat, the Jats in Haryana staged a massive protest demanding reservation in Central Government positions. In the name of agitation, vehicles were burnt, organisations and shops demolished – the Delhi NCR region experienced a standstill.

The Jats constitute 29% of the population in Haryana. This implies that the Jats practically own Haryana in terms of land and property. Hence, by no means, they classify as socially or financially backward. Rather, they are one of the most stable communities in terms of money, power and social status combined.

Another protest by a dominant caste was witnessed in Western India. Marathas of Maharashtra mobilised a huge crowd vociferously demanding the scrapping of Dalit Atrocities Act. This was in light of the rape of a minor girl, which afterwards turned into an agitation for demanding reservation. Interestingly, the Maratha movement was further unpolitical in the sense that it did not have a leader.

Communities desiring ‘backwardness’: Where are we headed?

The above three incidents bring into limelight the sorry state of affairs in the Indian system. Lack of education and job opportunities have forced the quasi-upper caste communities to fight for gaining a “backward” status. While communities elsewhere work towards gaining an advanced status, India presents an unpalatable example with communities desiring “backwardness”. The very idea of these protests in itself is very disturbing.

If such a situation persists, we are not far from the day when ‘general category’ will become the new ‘OBC’.

The fact that even after 69 years of independence, India has not been able to create enough opportunities for the youth to lead a prosperous life brings out the stark reality in the world’s largest democracy. It is distressing that a matter of shame for the entire nation is outrageously being exploited by political parties for their vote-bank politics. If such a situation persists, we are not far from the day when ‘general category’ will become the new ‘OBC’.

While the majority would consider this a risible matter, it is actually a grave issue which demands serious attention. The government and the judiciary need to step in and provide solutions for the same. The neglected issue of abolishing caste-based reservations needs to be addressed by the government, and policy makers. The need is to formulate reservation rules to actually benefit those who need it, rather than those who demand it.

Featured Image Credit: Youth Ki Awaaz
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