Reservations and a ring side view
It’s the issue of reservations for weaker sections that becomes a source of conflict with me and people around right from my college days. It has even entered into my family after I fathered a girl. I and the other groups holding the opposite view continue to be poles apart since then.
I am a strong votary of reservations and the others are equally vehement to scrap the facility altogether. My rivals seek level-playing with no discrimination basing on caste or creed just to keep merit “alive” in education and employment. Citing admissions in medicine on reservation basis, they want to know the fate of public health if patients are treated by doctors coming out from colleges through reservations. They conveniently pay little attention to the fate of patients treated by the tribe who also became doctors under management quota with their money power.
I hold the view that reservations have to be there as long as fault lines caused by inequalities exist in the system. I am not averse to making amends such as removal of creamy layer to ensure coverage of the uncovered.
When I was a student, a progressive student organization which I was associated with became a divided house following the Mandal agitation. A dominant group went into sulking opposing the pro-quota line of the party the student organization was affiliated to. Senior leaders at the helm in the student wing and the party as well spent a good deal of time and energies cajoling and placating the sulking group. Two of the group members later took to journalism even as one of them is now editing a leading vernacular daily based in Telangana.
People may wonder over the relevance of this discussion at this point of time. A short story titled “Dappi” or thirst in Telugu from the book titled “Yedari Bathukulu” of a Class-V dropout Yendapalli Bharati from Chittoor district, prompted me to scribble this piece. The author belongs to Madiga sub-caste in Scheduled Castes.
The story deals with untouchability faced by Dalits in accessing natural resources like water. An ailing child (author) along with her brother is waiting agonisingly at a well in the midst of an upper-caste village for someone’s mercy to quench their thirst on a sunny day. Droves of women are pulling up water from the well with buckets tied to a rope and taking away the precious liquid in pots. The folks remain unmoved and the pleas go unheard. At one stage, her brother summons courage to reach the well and draw water. But he was dissuaded by his mother anticipating backlash from landlords.
Finally, a woman pours out water from a container into their cupped hands from a “safe” distance.
This is the kind of practice that keeps Dalits under psychological subjugation and perpetuating inequalities. This is where the continued state intervention is need of the hour to avert a holocaust in the Hindu society.
The anti-quota proponents refuse to look at this beastly practice of humans failing to treat the fellow-humans as equals. This reprehensible practice reinforced within the Hindu caste system is incidentally seen nowhere in the world. Many people are quite often heard wondering whether this practice is still in vogue in a “developed” society like India. I hope Bharati’s real-life story will become an eye-opener to them. Another story, Kuttevaniki Mettu Karuvu” from the same book speaks of the irony of a person engaged in cobbling footwear is denied the very facility for himself. In the story, Kondavva’s husband is thrashed for going with footwear to the village inhabited by upper-castes elders.
Reservations may have helped a very few in the upper layers in empowering themselves economically by virtue of jobs under quota. But stigma, prejudice and discrimination continue to haunt all of them, both developed and under-developed, either overtly or covertly. The positions some sections hold hardly matter.
It’s not a dole by someone but a constitutional obligation to address inequalities in all forms to showcase India as a healthy society in the world.