A young colleague of mine came wearing a black band on his right arm to office. He was protesting against reservations over the weekend. Braved the hot sun and shouted slogans at Bombay's Azad Maidan. It was fun too, considering a lot of pretty girls were part of it, he admitted. But he says he's part of a larger group, that is committed to opposing reservations.

That's the good news. The momentum is picking up. And young, possibly middle and upper middle class India is opposing reservations to the hilt. And why shouldn't they ? They have much to loose. And its not their fault the Government is not doing its job, helping those who should be helped, effectively.

I am still not convinced whether reservations are the right solution to the right problem. Its the wrong solution the wrong problem. A classic politician's move - A short term, quick fix for an issue they have no desire to address, in the long term. Because they are not around that long. And they lack the tenacity of execution. Actually, they are not even around even now. Arjun Singh is in Saudi Arabia. As are most other ministers. Only PM Manmohan Singh has been left behind, to negotiate with the students.

Class Within A Class !

I still feel its jobs, jobs and jobs. Let me put it in a somewhat roundabout way. Someone who passes out of IIM is economically advantaged compared to most of his peers. So, an OBC student who passes out of IIM is economically advantaged compared to the rest of his OBC peers. So, how does reservation help the rest. Are we not creating a class distinction within the class !

Forget reservation, how does life improve for the rest ? Who, arguably, also aspire for a better life. Well, it does not. I still don't understand how by giving seats to precisely 1,500 students, anything changes for the rest. If I was an OBC (and I was once given to understand I could pass for one if I so wished), would I feel thrilled if some other OBC (of some 100 million OBCs) got a seat into IIM or AIIMS ?

Life is not about feeling happy for some lucky sod. Its like saying Arjun from my building won a Rs 1 crore Playwin lottery. So all of us building folks are happy and celebrating. Would you ? Yes, winning a lottery and gaining admission into a course is not the same. But then, isn't it somewhat here ? Since its a reserved seat ! So, its not about OBCs per se. Its about the numbers. The numbers are too vast for homegenity of any sort. And for people to bond with each other on this.

Where Are The Jobs ?

The government and the private sector have to work together here in creating more and more jobs. Which means opening up more industries, more investment (foreign and domestic) and creating a clear charter for more industrial output. We all celebrate the success of India's IT industry. The problem is we are celebrating the success of half a million people (at the very best). And not bothering about creating jobs for the rest. Not enough. And not on a war footing, which is what it should be.

I could go on and on about this but will not. The point is protesting students have to now force the government to think about solutions as well. With a promise to execute. Again I think, as always, how is it that the Government is able to display such amazing determination and will, to push through reservations but behave like a wimp when it comes to building roads, airports and ports. Yes, one is a short term fix and the other is long term. Who's seen the long term !

Since the students have shown so much determination, they need to take it a step further. And pin the government down on implementing solutions. On more primary education and more jobs. The vast majority knows they need vocational training and the ability to earn a living. Not the promise of more seats for a few thousand of their so called bretheren. That's fooling them. And of course not fixing the original problem.

Student power has changed a lot of things all over the world. Its emerged as a very important locomotive for change in India as well. It must do its bit. In a sustained manner.


Anonymous said…
The one variable you left out in your analysis is the role of the Left in this whole reservation issue. The Left has emerged stronger after winning the Kerala and W.Bengal elections, and they are able to harnass that local power when they negotiate at the national level with the UPA government. The left are skillful and tough negotiators. I wonder what kind of concessions the UPA government got? Maybe it was on the very issue you brought up: Infrastructure. The left is gearing up to put up a strong fight against privatization of the airports in Calcutta and Madras.

Reservation is a double-edge sword and essentially a zero-sum game of sorts in India.One group wins at the expense of another. This is not a win-win situation and as you correctly pointed out it to meet short-term political goal(s). For instance, Madras Presidency was the first to introduce reservation in 1918, and after independence there has been a steady exodus of the Tamilians from the forward caste to other states, and other parts of the world. Maybe that is what will happen with this current problem...the medicos might migrate to greener pastures...there is shortage of qualified doctors and nureses in the US for instance.

What needs to be done as you point out is create a better educational network for students. Everybody must have access to good primary, secondary and high school education. Kamla
Anonymous said…
I agree with Kamla there, as well as with Mr. Govind. Where will it all stop, with one politician leaving behind a "legacy" of sorts and making it a problem for some one else in future. The Government seems to be now involved with semantics, one where they state that a committee will go into the whole thing while on the other hand they remain committed to the reservations policy and will only ask the committee to see how the quota can be increased while keeping the general category at the same levels that it is currently! I don't know who the members of this committee is, wonder if someone who knows can enlighten me who is away from the Country at this time. Is the committee set up? Does it consist of people from across the spectrum or does it have mainly people who are predisposed towards reservations?
ankan said…
This thing is in danger now. Once the judiciary gets into something, they act like a raging bull; no one can question or disagree with them. I am not sure what right the judiciary has to tell people that they should stop agitating! Ridiculous.
Previous Post Next Post