The recent violent demands of the Gujjar community in Rajasthan have put the current system of affirmative action in India under spotlight. For perhaps the first time in our history (correct me if I’m wrong), a community is agitating to move down the social ladder. The official, bureaucratic social ladder. After close on to a hundred and more years of social reform; and half a century of affirmative action, it has all come down to this – those classified lower castes are getting the bigger pie of government jobs, so we want to move into the same bracket.
Predictably, once the shock wore off, the Meenas entered the arena looking for pitched battles. “Government jobs” are more precious than manna from heaven. Damned if we let our share get reduced.
And even the resulting parleys involved subtle hints of casteism. The Chief Minister’s daughter-in-law belonged to the agitating community and was called post haste to beef up negotiation’s success rate.
I don’t think we need any more proof that reservations have gone wrong. Caste-based reservations – with quotas determined by out-dated census data and suspect delineation of creamy and non-creamy layers – have worsened the situation. Social prejudice, if one goes by the recent spate of attacks on Dalits, has not abated. Those once abused, are still abused. If anything, reservations have given the oppressors one more beating stick. If a community is desperate enough to move down the social hierarchy to get a better shot at employment – that says a lot about how much they care about their current caste status. They just want jobs, damn it!
What we need is affirmative action based on economic status. Limited to one generation only. And with lots of checks built in, so we won’t have idiots marrying beggars just to get into the sugar bag. That will require sweeping upgrades to the way we do our census. Plus how we manage all that data, given that we will have to check stuff going back to a couple of generations.
Another thing to be done is, we need to drill it into those fools’ heads that affirmative action is not a right, its a consideration given to them. Yes, they deserve that consideration for past wrongs and what-nots, but thats the limit of it. So if our resources are straining at the limit, guess what expense should be the first to go?
Lastly, politicians – go get yourselves a grave or a pyre. We don’t need you.