K S VENKATARAMAN
I know that it is a sensitive issue and I would not like to touch it but we cannot overlook the fact that this the greatest tool of the politicians to increase their vote bank and fool the general public and it is also playing a great role in creating a great rift among the different sectors of population.
Actually let us analyze that do we really need reservation? What we really need is to develop and strengthen the weak and uneducated. We also need to think do the needy really get the benefit of reservation and how many really achieve the position where they could claim reservation.
What we should do is to provide the necessary infrastructure wherein everyone could be educated, trained; and should provide equal opportunity to all instead of promoting the bias on whatever basis it may be.
Reservation may be a sensitive topic but it does not mean that we should avoid it. It is so important from the point of view of political reforms that we should discuss it openly in detail and correct the serious mistakes already committed.
Caste system might have been found useful for division of labor and specialization in the society once upon a time, when there were a number of limitations in Knowledge Management. It was all right till the various divisions were able to live harmoniously and specialize in the tasks allotted to them.
With the growth of population, improvements in transport and communication, the caste system became not only superfluous but also incongruous. It also became a source of conflicts because the issues of superiority and inferiority multiplied among the castes and adversely affected social harmony.
The British used the caste system to their advantage. It became a very handy tool for them to develop groups and incite them against one another. Earlier, with all the differences, the people of different castes had lived with some togetherness. I wouldn't call it ideal state of affairs but at least deep mutual hatred and enmity were not there.
The Hindu-Muslim conflict based on religion, and caste-conflicts based on social differences, became very useful instruments for the British to hold on to India. They were also able to enlist Indian supporters to carry out their schemes of political chicanery.
Even after partition and Independence, the native politicians who succeeded the British, did not take any effective steps to wipe out these differences among the Indian citizens. This is so because, after Independence, the real nationalists who fought the British were slowly ejected out of the political power; and those who toed the line of the British during the pre-Independence period, were able to usurp the political power by carrying on mischievous and misleading propaganda of various types among the mass. They used all sorts of cunning tricks and created pressure groups in various parts of India, kindling emotions and mutual enmity among the people, using religion, castes, language and regional feelings.
They did not think it advisable to promote patriotism; they did not want the people of India to emerge as a single, homogenous political force. On the other hand, they wanted them to be disunited and quarreling among themselves, so that their local pressure groups can enter politics and gain ruling power.
To make it worse, they found the caste system useful for running vote bank politics and so deliberately have perpetuated them.
Reservation on the basis of castes is a national fraud of the politicians. They have used caste as the basis for making reservations, so that the people belonging to different castes would gain a vested interest in it; and thus have perpetuated the caste system.
The hypocritical politicians would speak at the top of their voice against the caste system but would make use of it at all levels and under all circumstances.
After the Independence, the Congress had full power. Jawaharlal Nehru was described as the uncrowned king of India. If they were sincere in the abolition of castes, they could have done with a stroke of pen. But by introducing reservation based on castes they reinforced the caste system, for selfish reasons!
The reasons used for caste-based reservation are far-fetched lies. It was true that people of some castes were at a very disadvantageous position. This was really bad. But what ought to have been done is that the government should have taken strong action to put an end to the bad caste system by de-recognizing it altogether.
They spoke blatant lies. They said that the Brahmins practiced monopoly of knowledge. Only the learning and teaching of the Vedas were the prerogative of the Brahmins. This was only in the interest of specialization. The Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas were also entitled to learn the Vedas; but they were not expected to teach them. But the system had ensured that the Vedic knowledge and ideals percolated all the levels of the society.
The Brahmins were not traditionally rich. For from it, they were expected to lead simple life. They were mostly poor. Only under the British rule, some of the Brahmins became rich by learning English and serving as their servants. To say that the Brahmins prevented other people from having proper education is a blatant lie. It is injustice to a community, the countless members of which have served the society as excellent teachers.
If learning the Vedas was left to the Brahmins, similarly many lucrative professions had been left to given communities; and the Brahmins were prevented from doing them. For example, the kings, businessmen, several artists belonged only to other communities.
Another point is that the learning was not restricted only to the Vedas. There were several shastras in Sanskrit and local languages, which were open to respective communities. There have been renowned experts belonging to other communities in many subjects from agriculture to medicine.
Caste reservations were designed mainly intended to keep the Brahmins away from the public life, as far as possible; because during the pre-independence days, the Brahmins had taken a lot of initiative against the caste system and untouchability.
They could have easily destroyed the caste system by not recognizing it for any legal purpose. The young social reformers would have done the rest to wipe out the castes once for all from the Indian scene. The politicians not only recognized the caste system but also wantonly linked the government concessions to it. Right from the stage of admission in elementary school, they made the caste an inseparable part of identity for all Indian citizens; and shamelessly claim that they are not for caste system!
If only the government had declared the practice of caste system illegal and opted to offer help to the weaker sections of the people, based on income criteria, it would have been more scientific; the caste system would have vanished long ago; not only that, the communities which suffered untouchability would have been immensely benefited by the schemes. Unfortunately, they have found it necessary to fight for justice even now.
And, the political standard would not have fallen to the present abysmal levels.
Instead of presenting the subject in proper perspective and changing the opinion of the people on the irrelevance of the caste system in modern times, the politicians encouraged it at all levels, right from panchayat elections to Parliament elections; and also within the parties. To make it worse, they have formed separate political parties for different castes, directly and indirectly.
Any benevolent government should identify weaker sections and wherever necessary offer special help to them to come up and join the mainstream of national administration. But having organized it on the basis of castes is the work of cunning and selfish politicians, who want to enrich themselves and promote divisional politics in India.
Offering concessions by way reservations is necessary. But as a prerequisite, the government should derecognize the caste system altogether. In the absence of governmental and political patronization, the caste system would lose its relevance and vanish.
Reservations should be designed to encourage and motivate the relevant people. The beneficiaries should not be allowed to take them as a matter of birth-right; they should recognize them as genuine, friendly help extended to them by the fellow citizens through the government. Only such a feeling would unite them with all others and would make them committed to self-development. It should be income-related and time-bound so that the benefits would spread to all the members of the concerned weaker groups.
K S Venkataraman is the Associate Editor, Dynamic Youth Online Magazine. He may be reached through e-mail: