Reserved on Reservations

The ugly head of Reservation and Quota has reared again. All across the country the debate rages about whether it is needed or not, whether the benefits from reservation outweigh the downsides. Every person you meet has a view on the subject. This view is usually tempered by the person’s personal experiences.

For all the talk of democracy and freedom, the Indian attitude is still one of being part of a kingdom or empire. We, the common man, still wait for “someone up there” to set things right. This explains why most of our movements have been top-down rather than bottom-up as we see elsewhere.

Rajarammohan Roy, Vivekananda, Gautam Buddha, Nehru, Gandhi, all our reformists have been from the forward or upper classes. Even Ambedkar was for all intents and purposes a forward.

Contrast this with popular leaders elsewhere in the world – Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Che. All revolutions around the world started with the oppressed class and then became a wave that engulfed everything along its way. The French Revolution being a classic example.

In India it requires one of the people in power to grow a conscience and raise his voice against the excesses of his own people.

Freedom and rights are fed to the people who need it in a sterilized milk bottle with a soft nipple at the head.

Reservations for the “backward” classes is yet another of these force-feed solutions.

What we should be doing instead is leveling the playing field. We should aim at making primary education (which should include the basic graduation courses too) free to all. Sweeping changes are required in the public education segment both in what is taught and in how it is taught. We need to return pride to the profession of teaching.

If reservation is akin to giving a hungry man fish then providing free primary education is akin to teaching him to fish.


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