Friday, June 02, 2006

arguments against anti-reservationists

Why We are opposed to Reservations..?, an article by Prof. Rahul Varman (IIT Kanpur), about his disagreement with the anti-reservationists. The article is compelling and in it I also found his thoughts on the question,
Why reservation should be based on caste and not based on economic levels? (with the intention of supporting poor upper castes)
Some say that instead of caste we should talk about the economic deprivation and by bringing caste reservations we’ll only bring in more divisiveness. I do not understand this argument; it is like saying that we should not address the gender oppression as an issue primarily concerning women, as men also have been sometimes oppressed; or that racial discrimination is not about the blacks and Hispanics in the US, as whites also are sometimes on the receiving end. Further, as if acknowledgement of this form of discrimination(s), instead of being a logical step towards affirmative action, would actually promote them. Coming back to reservations in the present context, it is true that a lot of men and upper castes are also oppressed, but here we are talking about a specific systemic historical subjugation of a massive magnitude, at present perhaps involving more than half a billion people. Reservations may not be answer to this problem but the issue cannot be addressed by bringing in every other kind of discrimination also while attempting to address this issue. Caste problem can be solved only by addressing caste issues; similarly if there are other discriminations that exist in the society (and of course they do) they need to be identified and addressed too, not substituting one form of redressal for the other. Further if the social and economic equity spreads it will not harden the caste identity but loosen it as I’ll argue further through the experience of the southern states later.

The analogy of caste discrimination with gender and race issues stands out. These are primary issues in themselves and so are supporting the deprived in all the other categories and each has to be solved considering the primary factor. Solutions to gender discrimination or affirmative action for African Americans/Hispanics cannot be based on economic criteria or other criterias---they have to based on the fact that women and colored people need to be empowered and so has to be the solution for caste discrimination. I think this is a very important point in the reservation/caste-discrimination discussion. Thoughts?


Sharad said...


No one is against the notion that the traditionally opressed have to empowered. The single biggest point of contention is that the reservations mostly go to the un deserved - the children of senior govt. employees, executives, doctors etc.

Especially in the case of the OBCs who are not even socially discriminated (unlike the Dalits). I find it outrageous that the son of an OBC Govt. officer who probably owns 100s of acres of land back in the village (as many OBC castes do) should get into an IIT with substantially less marks simply because historically he was under-represented!!

Purushottam said...


Yeah, certainly there is an issue of the economically well-off within the reserved categories taking advantage of the reservations. I think this is an implementation issue, even if the criteria is purely economic irrespective of caste, the same problem will most likely exist---which in either case is a serious problem and has to be dealt with. The Mandal commission was amended to exclude the "creamy layer" of OBCs from precisely such misuses (will try to find the exact text of that) and in the current round will most likely also have those riders.

Having said that, I think the quoted text in the post is saying that we have to address the caste discrimination issue as purely a caste issue and not as a economic status issues across all categories (which also is a valid problem). Having accepted that, the solution may not be what is being proposed currently, but whatever it will be, it will be a caste-discrimination removal solution---which i think is an important/interesting way to look at the problem and also to devise a solution.

Purushottam said...

Here are the criteria for being part of the 'creamy layer' and as a result being excluded from the reserved category, (original link is here, I am not sure if these are the latest)

* Son(s)/daughter(s) of persons holding Constitutional positions (i.e., President, Vice-President, Judges of Supreme Court & High Courts, Chairman and Members of the Union and State Public Service Commissions, Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General of India,
* Persons whose parent(s) is(are) Class I Officer,
* Persons whose parent(s) is(are) in the rank of Colonel and above in the Army and equivalent posts in the Navy and Air Force and the para-military forces,
* Persons whose families own irrigated land, which is equal to or more than 85% of the ceiling limit in terms of irrigated land as per State land ceiling laws,
* Persons having gross annual income of Rs.2.50 lakh (As of February 04, 2004) and above, or
* Persons possessing wealth above the exemption limits prescribed in the wealth Tax Act for a period of three consecutive years (income for salaries or agricultural land shall not be clubbed).

satya_katha said...

i felt so good to start the morning with a brilliant article by someone who i know very well. thanks puru...

i worked with Rahul and his wife Manali briefly at IITK. They are among the few people now at IITK who i would say the conscience keepers of academia which is otherwise getting more and more spineless and getting sold to neo-liberal ideas and the seduction of market.

satya_katha said...

"I recall when some students from IITK, almost all of them belonging to the North from UP to MP to Orissa, went to participate in post Tsunami relief work in Tamil Nadu."

On a lighter note: Rahul! Orissa is not part of the north :)
It is south and it is east.

Anonymous said...

The growing commercialization of higher education – the exorbitant hikes in fees and provision of admission in private colleges and institutes by payment of huge capitation fees – is already excluding many meritorious students from all castes. In other words, the present system perpetuates social injustice and inequality and rewards money and influence and not merit as is wrongly argued by anti reservation ideologues. The answer therefore lies in reservation and other measures of affirmative action for all underprivileged and disadvantaged sections, including immediate creation of more affordable opportunities to accommodate aspiring students from all backgrounds.

The PB strongly condemns incidents of brutal police crackdown on agitating students - whether for or against reservation, in Mumbai, Delhi and Patna. Instead of making piecemeal announcements according to political convenience the government must come up with a holistic policy and comprehensive package in consultation with all concerned sections.

[Excerpts from the CPI(ML) politburo communique]

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