Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reservations on Economic Lines

I am not going to discuss reservation and its pros and cons. What I intend to do here is to present my take on reservation proposed from time to time based on economic criterion.

First we should understand why to have reservations in the first place. One answer is, to provide a level playing field to the marginalized sections of the society. If this is the reason, economic criterion may well qualify for becoming the basis of reservation. But there is more to it.

Reservation is a form of penance for wrongs done in the past by our forefathers. Certain castes were deliberately oppressed for ages by the Varna system. Because of centuries of institutionalized oppression, most people from those castes remain backward even today. Reservation is an effort to give them their true share and bring them at par with other sections of the society. We now have reservations because some wrong had been committed in the past.

Now the case I keep on hearing that the basis of reservation should be economic. So we should ponder why people are poor, especially those belonging to the forward castes. Was it fault of the society, or it was some form of injustice? I guess not. People from forward castes were not prevented by the society from becoming prosperous. Their poverty was the result of reasons concerning solely themselves and not the society as a whole. So there is no penance required for a crime not committed.

In fact reservations on economic lines will mean reservations in perpetuity. There will always be poor in the society. Won’t it be a disincentive for working hard and becoming rich. Why should the family which toiled and became prosperous suffer vis a vis that whose efforts were not so great and it remained poor. It shall not be justice.

I do not intend to say that I support reservation or am against it. That is a different matter altogether. My only point is to present my case that reservation based on economic lines is a flawed concept having no proper justification for it.


Rahul said...

Many Economists believe that someone is poor because of either being inefficient, unqualified or being deprived of the opportunities to grow and prosper.

The first case where poorness is due to inefficiency certainly does not qualify for reservations.

The second category can be given incentives and training to come up , reservations as such will make the system inefficient and slow and even fatal sometimes because of the presence of under-qualified or unqualified people

The third category is for whom there is a need of debate. Some people believe in reservations, some believe in affirmative actions . Well situations are different , environments are different hence they should be tackled differently. Some cases do require reservations but most of them need to be dealt with affirmative action and reducing negative discrimination

Anurag Srivastava said...

@Rahul: Very true.

But in India I will say that most of those deprived of the opportunities to grow and prosper belong to the backward classes. That is why in India, backward class is synonymous with backward castes and for all officail purposes this is used so.

Chandan Dubey said...

By the same token, it can be argued that it's not the fault of the child that he is born in a poor family. It is a wrong commited to him by the fore-fathers albeit his own.

After nearly half a century of reservations everywhere, for the sake of argument one may point out that the economic situation of the upper-classes may have been affected by the reservation policies. Either some deserving people have not found a job or they have been passed countless number of times in promotions. Some more years and it could be termed not centuries but at least decades of "institutionalized oppression".

Anurag Srivastava said...

@Chandan: Pleasure to see you on my blog :)

I always wanted to avoid justyfying or criticising reservation and confine myself to reservation on economic lines.

Reservation was a tool of social justice, to make backward classes believe that new independent India will take care of them. As I said it was a penance that forward castes have to do to avoid social unrest. This reservation got a big boost in times when there was the danger of even dalit-non dalit divide becoming similar to hindu-muslim divide.

As we say, it is a positive discrimination or an affirmative action necessary to fill the gap created in centuries. And even today, caste discrimination is a reality in India, so something as to be done about it. Even in US, it is practiced to uplift the colored races.

My support for reservation is only in theory. I againg maintain, I do not support or criticise reservation is applicable form.

aditya said...

I also agree that reservation should not be on caste basis.People should fight odds and come up.Goverment should provide proper primary education to these people so that they can compete rather than spoiling their base and then giving reservation.Reservation is given because a particular section of socity was ill treated.Britishers ill treated us for 100 years so next time in a 100m race we should run 80m and they should run 100m as we are developing country and they are developed.