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Caste Reservation in Jobs and Education Is Like an Albatross Around India's Neck

An senior air warrior and political observer who has the pulse of the region and can sense a change when it comes.



The idiom albatross around one’s neck, refers to a heavy burden someone carries, especially a burden that torments someone incessantly. This idiom comes from the 19th-century poem 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. India has created a problem by accepting perpetual reservation of jobs based on caste. The Constitution of India was framed in 1947 and it specified 22.5% reservation for Hindus in the lowest rung of the social classes. In 1989, the VP Singh government with an eye on winning the elections played vote bank politics and increased reservation to 49% and included well of classes that formed the third rung of the social order.

The caste system in India has origins in ancient India. It underwent a transformation by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India. The changes were more marked during the last 400 years which was the period of Mughul rule followed by British rule.

The caste system as it exists today is thought to be the result of developments during the collapse of the Mughal era and the rise of the colonial regime. The British Raj accepted the caste system and used it to perpetuate their rule. Between 1860 and 1920, the British segregated Indians by caste, granting administrative jobs and senior appointments only to Christians and people belonging to certain castes, especially Brahmins and other upper castes.

Once the British left India there was an urgent need to reorganize the social setup and the deprived castes namely the untouchables and the Shudras needed to be given some benefits. Dr. Ambedkar the father of the Indian Constitution formulated and codified in the Constitution a system of reservation in government jobs for the scheduled castes and scheduled Tribes. Dr. Ambedkar specified that this would be 22.5% of the vacancies and would be for 15 years. He did not envisage reservations beyond that period.

After 1962 i.e 15 years as specified in the Constitution, the Congress government with an eye on vote bank politics extended the Constitutional limits of reservation and now it has become perpetual.

Vote bank politics continued to dominate the Indian political scenario. The VP Singh government which was a minority government in 1989 brought forth a bill that increased the reservation to 49%. The new dispensation included the Vaisyas who were relatively well-off and were also part of the landed gentry. Apart from the defence, all other jobs under the government including the very big industries like steel plants came within the purview of this reservation. This reservation was also extended to universities colleges and technical institutes which are the buds of intellectual thought. The Indian state cast the dye in favor of populism and meritocracy was dumped in the bin.

Intellectuals and many people deny it but this reservation based on caste has created a divide in Indian society. It is something like apartheid which talked of separate development of races. The only difference is that here 'races' are replaced by caste. As things stand in India, everything and anything including housing by the government sector has an allotment/ reservation based on caste.


Effect of reservation

Caste has now become of great importance in India. Once the government has accepted reservation of jobs and opportunities in education based on caste it was inevitable that caste would become polarised. This is visible even in the general elections which in my view are not the way they should be. The political parties select candidates based on caste and the influence of a particular caste in a particular district. The Indian Parliament also has certain seats which are reserved for the scheduled castes and Tribes and from the seats earmarked only these candidates can stand for election.

The one vote one person system has just not been a success in India. I have yet to see an election in India that is not dominated by the caste factor. Certain political parties swear by reservation and castigate the higher castes. The government and the political thinkers after 1947 should have tried to integrate the castes but by implementing these reservations and extending them to the educational sector the divides have been increased.

I recollect a bright young student who after completing his MBBS applied for postgraduate in surgery. He was denied admission as the vacancy had been earmarked for a reserved category. He found a boy being selected who had a much lower grade than him. He was disgusted and migrated to the United States. This effectively means that meritocracy which is the hallmark of development has been given the go by. There it is no wonder that no significant research in pure sciences has taken place in India, unlike China and America.

The downward effect of doing away with meritocracy has led to poor administration with all its resultant effects.

Though reservations have been in force for the last 73 years, yet the economic condition of the lower castes has not improved. This is a surprise to many people. This is because the fruits of reservation are cornered by the relatively well to do in the lower castes and the general masses who are doing the menial jobs and working as laborers have remained where they were. Persons who have taken the benefit of reservation continue to pass that on to their progeny even though they are financially well-off and thus another hierarchy has been created; of a caste of well-to-do within the lower caste. Even the Indian Supreme Court has not taken cognizance of this and has come out with some judgments which put the creamy layer( those to be denied reservation) much above the national average.



Some time back the Chinese Institute of Strategic Studies put forth a paper on the caste and other factors in India. Subsequently, the Chinese denied this service paper but a reading of it will give an idea as to what the other people think. We must remember that how we look can only be told by a mirror and it is worth reading this report as it gives a mirror as to what others think about India. The institute published paper says that India will break up because of the inherent contradictions of the caste system in Hinduism. It also talks of lack of progress because of this contradiction and feels that the only way India can develop is if it is broken up to at least three or four states and the caste system can be done away with.

I do not think what the Chinese state is going to happen but at the same time, the Indian people must rectify the ills of Indian society. Sadly there are many who earlier were opposed to reservations have now started championing them. The Rashtra Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had for decades been against the system of reservation as it militated against the unity of Hinduism. Once the BJP came to power, which is the political arm of the RSS, the organization changed colors and pandering to vote banks have accepted reservations in jobs and educational institutions as a cardinal policy.

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MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 28, 2020:

Yves, so nice of you to spare time and comment

Yves on August 28, 2020:

I watched a show on Netflix recently about an Indian Matchmaker. One of the clients referred to herself as Dalit, and she was concerned about finding a match for this reason. I have been aware that the caste system is still prevalent in India, but needless to say my knowledge about the system is quite limited.

Thank you for enlightening us with this highly informative article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 01, 2020:

Thanks, Olusegun, for sparing time and commenting

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on August 01, 2020:

" He found a boy being selected who had a much lower grade than him. He was disgusted and migrated to the United States" Selectivity spans through nooks and crannies of the world. Good work.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2020:

Yes, Peggy, caste has become a vote bank. Democracies have their faults.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 29, 2020:

Thanks for enlightening us about the caste system that still exists in India.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 29, 2020:

Thank you Pamela, it sad that the caste is given af fresh lease of life. I hope better sense will prevail.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 29, 2020:

I didn't know the caste system was still in effect as I thought it was stil outlawed. This well-written article is an interesting account of the caste system and its ill effects.

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