Sunday, May 28, 2006

Still on the reservation issue, here is another beauty, this time from MJ Akbar, editor of the Asian Age.

Reserved for politics
- By M.J. Akbar

I wonder if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh realises how effectively he has maimed the legacy of Finance Minister Manmohan Singh by an ill-intentioned reservation policy that seeks to restore the primacy of political manipulation over rational economic evolution. The British protected their empire by the effective use of a Roman principle of political management: divide and rule. The British divided Hindus and Muslims in order to survive. Dr Manmohan Singh’s government is pouring acid on the divisions of Hindu society in order to protect its power.

Caste is a fact in India; casteism is an evil. There was early recognition of this evil when the basic structures of a modern Indian state were being established by the generation that won us freedom from the British. Coincidentally, I am writing this on the day Jawaharlal Nehru, a Brahmin who challenged the inequities of Indian society, died. Nehru understood the need for affirmative action. But none of these terms — caste, casteism or affirmative action — is a stagnant reality.

Nehru, and the Constituent Assembly, followed their leader and mentor, Mahatma Gandhi, and extended affirmative action to those who had suffered the greatest injustice, the Dalits. They did not raise the bar to the Backward castes. Was Nehru an enemy of the Backward castes? He dreamt of and founded the great institutions that have become the pride of India all over the world. Reservations were not an unknown concept: why didn’t Nehru, or his daughter Indira Gandhi, allot half the seats in educational institutions for select castes? You cannot accuse them of being indifferent to India or its realities. In fact, the inequity was much worse sixty years ago, and thirty years ago, than it is today.

But Nehru and Indira Gandhi knew that, if it is to succeed, social policy in a democratic polity must be held together by reason and consensus. When there is reason, policy is reasonable; when it is reasonable, there is consensus. Casteism, and the domination of the upper castes, was much, much worse in 1950 and 1967 than it is in 2006. But there was no anger when reservations were made into law in 1950. The upper castes that would not permit the shadow of a Dalit to cross their path suppressed their bloated egos and kept their mouths shut. Reservations were accepted as a necessary step towards a better India. Today, excess is on the verge of destroying the necessary. Reservations are now the interest — collected by pick pocketing the future of India — paid by politicians for loans from their vote banks.

Students and doctors are out on the streets not because they reject the need for social justice. They are out because politicians are stealing the future of the young in order to preserve the power of the old.

Does Dr Manmohan Singh understand why these young men and women have suddenly become so disillusioned with him? It is because Dr Singh gave them their most recent illusion. He promised the young release from the shibboleths and knots that had curdled India for too long.

rest of article:


At 12:04 PM, Blogger John said...

I only read some passing coverage of this issue in the New York Times. I still don't understand: does the "reservations" (quotas?) system extend only to Dalits or to many different castes? I don't know enough about the issue, but I think I would agree with those who favour a system that does not diminish competition too much.

At 4:42 AM, Blogger Passing Observer said...

Hey John, Dalits are already covered with a 22 percent reservation. This new one is for other backward castes, which is very ambiguous, because no one is quite sure about who falls under this and who doesn't. This is just a vote garnering ploy by the ruling Congress party. There is absolutely no well-meaning intention behind this one.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger sand said...

All these SC/STs, OBC or whoever...they are down sizing themselves by asking for more and more reservations.

As long as they ask for these reservations they will remain as backward castes and can never be equal to OCs.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger sand said...

By the way Mr. must be wondering who the hell is this Sand......well I am Sandeep here.

All these days I was a PASSIVE OBSERVER of your blog.....trying to be little active now....

At 5:32 AM, Blogger Passing Observer said...

Hey Sandeep,

Glad to see your posts, i actually figured when i saw paris2london on your profile. i'm still trying to figure out how to get more hits on this blog. By the way, you do make a good point about SC/ST and OBC's remaining like that if they keep depending on more and more reservations. There are actually many middle class OBC's who want to acheive their goals through merit. At the end of the day everyone knows, this is pure politics to probably help Rahul Gandhi get elected in UP.


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