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India’s Inconvenient Truth

By Mohit Saxena

I know I am getting into a controversial zone with this article, but I am better off discussing this than letting it fume in me – I am sure many of you will be able to relate to what I have to say here, though there will be some who disagree too. The topic of discussion is our “reservation system” and it is not something new to our country. It has existed for quite some decades now.

Back in my school days, I was too young to understand why and how this system had been designed. During my college days, the Mandal commission implementation under V.P. Singh’s regime was underway, and in full swing. When I read to understand why Dr. B.R. Ambedkar recommended caste based reservations, I appreciate his intentions more than ever before. He was indeed a true visionary who foresaw the need for such a system, but also strongly suggested periodic review. He rightly asked for it to be implemented for a limited duration as the reservation system is not a solution to a problem; it only solves a symptom. Sooner rather than later, the actual problem needs to be identified and solved for a more sustainable and equal society in the future.

Back in the days, the ‘symptom’ was the lack of equal opportunities in society, especially during times when the government was the major employer. Caste based inequality was quite prevalent – so a solution to cap it with a caste based reservation made sense. But if we fast forward several decades to today, the government is no longer the primary employer, and the private sector does not differentiate between candidates based on caste. Then, why do we still need a reservation system?

In today’s employment scene, which is largely driven by the private sector, entrepreneurship is booming across disciplines.

In such a case, the whole premise of caste based reservations is unfounded. There is no socio-economic measure or a scientific clause to the caste based reservation system, which makes its implementation and measurement of its outcomes very tricky. How do you really classify a caste as backward or forward, objectively? “Is it really required?” is a big question which needs to be revisited. If we do not take a hard call to end this system, the likes of Patels and Jats will continue demanding a slice of reservation for themselves. Also, there is no end to the percentage quota they would demand.

The same set of families are benefiting from the reservations generation after generation, denying the really deserving from availing the benefits. Within the backward classes itself, for example, there are privileged sectors that are crippling the impact that the reservation system is meant to create. This defeats the whole purpose of the system and unfortunately, no politician wants to step in to solve this deepening problem holistically.

On one hand we need to question the core existence of the system, and on the other, we need to understand that the existing system has its own flaws – the major one being the sectional divide that has been built within the reservation system thereby depriving it from benefiting the really needy.

The only long term solution to this is equal and affordable education across the country. This is what will help uplift the social and economic status of people. This solution needs to seep in at all levels and very early in a child’s educational life-cycle. Else, it is unfair for two individuals to face the same life battle, when one has had all the advantage from the early stages of life while the other has been deprived of even the basic amenities.

Additionally, in my observation, within India itself, this problem has manifested in varying degrees. For example, in the north of India, especially places like Uttar Pradesh, where the literacy rates are low, the caste based divide is very prominent, deeply depriving people of the equality they deserve. In the south, the situation is much better, with better educational background, where the reservation beneficiaries are more widespread.

The education sector itself needs immediate reformation from varied standpoints, one of which is equal and affordable access to education to one and all in the country.

Going back to some of the core points in my earlier article on this topic, it is not that the British did not notice the reservation system we had. However, they did not largely attempt to solve it, as they used the divide in their favour to conquer the country. I doubt if such a reservation system exists in this magnitude in any other country. It should not exist in India in the 21st century and reforming the educational system is the long-lasting solution which will shake the foundation of the lack-lustre reservation ecosystem that we are seeing today.

Mohit Saxena is CO-Founder & CTO on inMobi, where he is currently heading the technology group at Global mobile ad network InMobi.

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