Bandh in Tamil Nadu over the last weekend incited a few thoughts in me. It was an impromptu bandh and the announcement came late on Thursday evening, after Supreme Court’s stay order over the OBC reservation quota of 27% in educational institutions.
I began thinking about the Backward castes that we are talking about. Especially in Tamil Nadu we have a very steep caste system. This system ages to several hundred years. A lot has changed during these years – education levels went high, economy grew, life style improved; but the criteria for identifying the caste never undergone a change. Still a person falls into the forward caste or backward case merely by the virtue of his birth; this distinction is made irrespective of the social and economic conditions of his family. I strongly feel that determining caste based on birth is an absolute mistake.
Today we see a number of people belong to the forward caste. But the economic levels of these people are very low when compared to some backward caste folks. I do not want to say that all backward caste folks are above the poverty line and economically stable. But this fact does not hold good all the time. When this is the case, the rationale behind the determination of caste based on birth is completely flawed.
There must be a complete revamp of the caste system in our country. Economic condition of the families must be determined, irrespective of the caste or creed they belong to, and categories of people must be identified. Suitable reservations and other emoluments must be provided based on the category, which in turn depends on the economic conditions of the people. I faintly remember that there was a news regarding a Social Security like scheme in India. This is a welcome step. Each person (or at least a family) must be assigned a unique number which would help to group families into categories. Reservations must be provided to those who cannot join educational institutions just because of lack of money. In such cases, reservations must be given to merit-cum-ambitious students from these families.
Thus reservations based on the existing caste system would do no good to people who are really at the bottom of the society. With rich becoming richer and poor getting poorer, reservations and subsidies for economically backward people are the only relief from this malady. The current approach of the Governments to use the illiterate and socially unaware backward people for their vote banks must stop; rather they should look how the reservations can help these people to come up in their life. Otherwise, we might one day see a hartal demanding reservation of 99% seats for the backward castes in colleges, to fight the impending elections. So how do the forward caste students study in those cases? Go abroad? 😉