Yes, I have benefited from reservations. Twice. No, I’m not in support of reservations.
Why not? Because its like a drug. You are shot up to the moon when you hold the admission slips in your hand. And for the rest of your life, you have to contend with the question “What if I was in the open category?” It will follow you everywhere. It will attend the course with you. It will be there when you finish the course. It will be there when you start your job. Because, you know, that job has been possible because… Its difficult to be without a clean conscience – how can you figure saying “I believe in meritocracy” when you are where you are by stepping over so many heads? How do you drive away that bitter feeling you get when you know you have driven away your chance to be counted among equals; because all your achievements are based on one act of inequality?
And yet, I find myself coldly unapologetic. If I don’t deserve a seat; well, I have seen others with better academic records who don’t deserve it either. But that is neither here nor there. I’m going to be out of the system soon. And I don’t want it to go to dust by the time my kids (what? OK, your kids – the future of this nation – you get the idea) enter it.
Thite has a plan. In short, reservations are simply to be rejected out of hand. Thats asking the caste people to play fair – simple enough. I’ll repeat my doubt – if you are asking us to come up to your level for judgement, can you guarantee that in a prejudiced society, we will be granted a fair decision? America was once split between whites and blacks during the course of history. Indians still look for shades of brown. If only Eklavya had refused to cut off his thumb, history would have been a bit different.
Please don’t counter this by saying prejudice doesn’t exist now. It does. Look for people asking your caste right after they ask your name. I have gone through that rigmarole – each time my hope that the second question won’t be asked has been dashed. People can’t let go. They want to be assured that they are God’s granted – superior.
Still, I don’t support reservations. Its bad enough for the system. Its also bad for those whom its supposed to work for. How? Other than a corroded soul? Look at any organisation which has reservations. The lower and middle levels will be filled with reserved category candidates. And it will be used in all of the arguments against reservations. Look higher. The top. I doubt you will find a caste guy there. Inspite of reservations, the power centres of our nation have always been with those who have had it traditionally – guess who? The people with a hotline to God. My point is – reservations don’t damn work! If after setting aside 50% of the seats for 50% of the population, not ONE can break (and stay) into a power centre being controlled by someone from the other 50%, then reservation is not the solution, if it ever was; which it wasn’t and still isn’t. I want that stranglehold to be broken. That exclusivity to be removed. I’m game for fair fight. And I’m ready to slug it out if even you add our past records as a liability.
And here’s what I say should be done. And its as utopian as Thite’s plan.
Ambedkar may have been a genius. Ambedkar got respect because he competed and won on equal terms. His mistake was asking to make the battle easier for his caste brothers. Respect can not be earned by reservation. He should have had a bit more trust in his people. If he could make it to the top, what was there to stop the millions from atleast goddamn trying to fight it out on the same terms? One generation is all it takes to grab a hold. If he could do it with his determination alone, what in seven hells made him think that a generation as inspired and determined as the one in the post independence years could not make it? They would have brought around a revolution if he had asked for it – why wouldn’t they try reaching out into the society on equal terms? Simply becuase Ambedkar thought they couldn’t. Benevolent over-protective big brother. And now we believe we can’t either.
Affirmative action begins and ends with the belief that you can take on the world on its own terms. Stand on your own two feet. If you are ready to fight, I’m ready to lend you the weapons and train you. Thats what the caste people need.
You want your kid to get a good job. For that he needs a good education. Are you ready to forego 10 years of income loss while he studies? Yes? Does your kid want to study and get a good job? Yes? Good. Then we will make sure he clears primary and secondary school on equal terms with others. We will teach him to score – to compete and achieve – on par with others. We will make sure that the education he gets is not just marks on paper. We will teach him that there is education beyond books and schools and institutes. We will make sure he is aware and proud of his identity and yet, is not dependent on it.
Does he want to study more? Is he ready to be among India’s best? Is he aware of the struggles? Does he know the price of failure? Of success? Can he rein in his pride if he succeeds? For there is even more to achieve if he reaches the top. Yes? We will help him out. By now he knows how to compete on equal terms. We will just show him the rules and make sure he understands them well. Money and other mundane things? Surely your son, now among India’s best, can pay us back; or better, use it to bring others, like him, up among India’s best.
That goes for the daughters too.
Did I mention anything about reservations? I think not.