“Reservation is a runway ...If you won’t take off, how will another flight take off …” This is the statement for SC community made by Milind Kamble, Founder Chairman of Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry regarding issue of reservation for Dalits. I do assume that same statement applies to other reserved categories as well, though my primary concern is Dalits only in this article.
In every discussion on social media on caste census, political and social power, upliftment of down trodden communities, invariably you will find that issue of reservation will crop up. Everyone will talk that reservation quota for their caste should increase because probably their population in terms of % of total population is more, justice has been denied to them for long and affirmative action is not being taken by the government or industry. Most of them, the people who write or shout for them are from higher strata of society, some of them are from so called liberals but invariably no political party will oppose reservation in a public debate.
Are these so called social and political champions want real benefit to accrue to Dalits / ST masses? Answer is NO. Each of them wants the votes of Dalits and these communities.
We are 75 years old country now and it is the time to review what benefits, reservation has given to these communities. Was it intended for this purpose of debate and argument for continuing the reservation and probably to increase the scope of reservation because it has become a tool to gain political power through vote bank politics? In a recent talk show on CNBC Awaaz, when the anchor asked the political commentator about benefits which has been accrued to community involved, he drew a blank. Why nobody wants to talk about the benefits to the target community?
Here is the catch? Each community has developed the vested interest group who were either better off even earlier in every term of social hierarchy or have developed themselves now through reservation but are in no mood to leave that privilege because now they take it as a sense of entitlement. Purpose of reservation as envisaged by Dr Ambedkar has no meaning for them. They are politically sound, economically prosperous and have a say in decision making system to ensure that benefits to their next generations continue. If system changes, they will be biggest losers. So, what is the option for them? They do not want that other in their community to get good education, job, acumen or exposure because if that happens, others from their community will compete with them. So, what is happening, their family or tribe is getting benefits across many generations. They are the one who will ensure that existing system of reservation continues. These people have literally become power brokers in the existing socio-political system.
Irrespective of political party in power, nobody wants to disturb this segment because if any change happens in the system, creamy layers for SC and ST or restriction of reservation for one generation only, this segment will lose the power and leverage within the community, so they will ensure existing system continues.
As a consequence, to this, Dalits/ ST are suffering barring few privileged lots and that frustration is seen in their social conduct and behaviour. Political leaders like Mayawati or Khadge or even former President of India, are privileged lot, lot of political power and no real effort for the upliftment of Dalit masses is the characteristic of this lot. Political parties find it expedient to deal with power brokers from communities rather than with the community members directly. We all know that political leaders are able to manipulate the masses. Any change in reservation rules for Dalits, restriction to one generation or introduction of creamy layer, may invite big social unrest and nobody is ready to pay the price when existing system is suitable for elites of the community.
More than that, Dalits are losing self-esteem. Anybody coming from reservation quota is perceived in different way unless he proves otherwise. Who would like to go to a doctor who has come via reservation stream unless he is perceived as a competent doctor? In Bureaucracy, one is bound to go to the officer concerned irrespective of his competence, people will not go to incompetent doctor when they have the choice. Incompetence and reservation got interlinked though not appropriately in some of the cases.
It will not be appropriate to expect the individuals to withdraw from reservations voluntarily, though some of them have left the reservation benefits but those can be counted on fingers. Human beings are selfish but community as such has to demand that to happen. More so, if community wants to earn respect in society, it has to accept competence as a criterion for social upliftment. Its social conduct should reflect that. Merely blaming the higher castes for the injustice done to them earlier will not serve their purpose. Time to play the victim card is over and they have to throw it themselves only. Respect in the society will be automatic.