We often hear the term ‘social justice’ being discussed in the mainstream media and by our politicians. The new media-created hero Kanhaiya Kumar spoke about the lack of social justice in India and how the RSS and the Sangh are oppressors of Dalits, OBCs, EBCs, etc. The Congress, CPI (M), JDU and the LJP recently supported the ridiculous idea of reservations in the private sector. During the Bihar election campaign, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat made a statement that the basis on which reservations are granted today needs a relook. Expectedly, there was a backlash from the socialist parties and very disappointingly, Narendra Modi and the BJP needlessly went into damage control mode and gave an assurance that caste-based reservations will be here to stay.
Current law on reservations and quota system:
Though Article 15(1) of the Constitution says that the state shall not discriminate any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, it also provides for ‘protective discrimination’ in favor of certain sections of the disadvantaged people. Article 15(4) of the constitution says that the State can make special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward class or citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
SC and ST together constitute approximately 22.5% of the country’s population. Accordingly, a pro-rata reservation of 22.5% (15% for SC and 7.5% for ST) has been made for them in educational institutions that come under the administrative control of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) and other central ministries. As if this was not enough, seats are also reserved for other categories of backward communities (OBC) as per the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. 27% of seats in all scientific, technical and professional institutions run by the Central and State Governments are reserved for OBCs.
Reality Check of Social Injustice:
Now, is there social injustice in India? The one word answer to this question is ‘Yes’, but the complete picture is not what is argued by the proponents of social justice and reservation. While there is no denying the fact that at one point in time, the backward classes were indeed oppressed and there were evil practices like untouchability, the scenario is a lot different today. In most private organizations that offer jobs to people or in private educational institutions, people belonging to the non-reserved classes or the General Category do not get any special treatment. In private institutions, people don’t care what caste one belongs to and this entire theory of oppression of the backward classes is completely flawed and non-existent. In rural India, there are instances of such oppression, but everyone will agree that the number of such incidents have reduced considerably over the years.
The social injustice against the backward classes have been spoken of enough and has got far more attention than the issue actually deserves. But on the other hand, there is grave injustice that is happening to ordinary citizens belonging to the General Category and no politician or media person cares to address this issue. Today, there are a lot of people from the backward classes who are financially well-off and a lot of people from the General Category who are not financially well-off. In spite of this reality, the richer backward class citizen gets benefits that the poor General Category citizen does not. There are many such cases that are prevalent in the country. Isn’t this social injustice? A person does not get any benefit from the government, in spite of him not being financially sound just because he was not born in a backward class family. On the contrary, a job in the public sector or an admission in a college, which the person would possibly have got if there were no caste based reservations, can also elude him/her. One reason that is commonly given by the proponents of caste based reservation is that all these years, the backward classes were oppressed and now that they are getting special privileges, the General Category must not complain. This argument is flawed and illogical. If one were to build an anology, there were various Islamic rulers like Mohammed Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Babar, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan who have committed atrocities on Hindus. So, keeping that in mind, would it be justified if Hindus today start ill-treating Muslims? Must we not live in the present and have policies that are relevant to today’s times? The regressive reservation policy of today has resulted in people from the General Category being treated as second class and unwanted citizens of this country. Politicians across all parties speak up for the backward classes, not because of special concern for them, but to keep their vote bank intact, but nobody cares a damn about the life of a General Category citizen. It isn’t surprising therefore that a lot of talent has migrated to other parts of the world like the United States where there is genuine equality when it comes to providing opportunities.
The lawmakers give big sermons about equality and progress for all with tag lines like ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, but the reservation policy of today is contradictory to what they say. The common man is more than happy to co-exist peacefully with other people belonging to different castes and religion, but it is the selfish politicians who promote laws like caste-based reservations, that is the root cause of all the bitterness in the Indian society today. The current NDA government’s stand on the caste-based reservation is disappointing, to put it mildly. The BJP must remember that it lies in the centre-right of the political spectrum. In trying to please a section that it can never please, no matter what they do, they are repeatedly disappointing their core supporters and this is very evident in their stand on reservation. They must realize that a high percentage of people in this country hate the concept of caste-based reservation and taking a firm stand to do away with this evil will actually reap benefits in the long run.
To conclude, it is fair to have reservations based on the financial well-being of an individual but definitely the caste-based reservation is a regressive policy that only further divides the people of the country, incites feelings of bitterness and needless to say, is a big deterrent to the overall progress of the nation.