Ever been to Bangalore? Well I’d been there for my summer training and as a student my saviour in the chaotic traffic was the city bus service –BTS. I had always heard about reservations, seen them in action but had never experienced them. It was in these humble BTS buses where I had first hand experience with reservations. I generally sat in the back rows, a habit from my college, but here it was due to the mad rush. One fine day I was early and was surprised to find the bus sparsely occupied. I occupied the 2nd row seat. The conductor came and said something in Kannada, which for me was all French & Greek. I paid for the ticket and tuned into Radio City on my walkman. After 15 minutes, when the bus was jam packed, the conductor came towards me and again said something in Kannada. Someone translated it for me in English and said that since I was sitting on a seat reserved for women I had to get up and make way for women to sit. I then realized that around a third to half seats, and those too front seats, of the bus are reserved for women (those marked in red on the back).
I somehow did not like this scheme of reservation, maybe because I was asked to leave my seat and was made to stand for rest of my journey. I’d experienced this scheme in other cities too, but there the % of seats reserved for women was not so high. After few more days, the reason for such a scheme was evident. When men treat men in dingily manner on the bus, just imagine how they will behave with women on it. To make public transport safe and easy for women, it is necessary to have such a scheme.
The ongoing debate on increased reservations in educational institutions is somewhat similar. Those who are asked to make way for people belonging to the deprived classes (and remember the word is Deprived not Backward), feel that their rights have been infringed upon. However, they fail to see the manner in which people from deprived classes are treated in schools, offices, in small-scale private entities, by bureaucrats and in various spheres of life. Majority of those voicing opinion against reservations are from Metros and Big Cities or belong to well to do communities, where discrimination is not so evident. But after having a look at the thousands of towns and villages, where majority of these deprived people live, one can’t deny the need for reservations
Students argue that there is no point in reservations, as the needy don’t get it. And this is why I have used the word ‘Deprived’ and not ‘Backward or Minority or SC ST’, because many well to do people from SC/ST/OBC etc… tend to take advantage of reservations and the system fails. But if the scheme is made limited to only the deprived sections, there won’t be such cases.
Another argument is that of maintaining Quality. It’s argued that students from deprived classes are not that good and would be a compromise on quality ,especially for esteemed institutions like IITs, IIMs etc.. But nowhere has it been proved that students from deprived classes have lower IQ or are less intelligent than others. Take the example of National Innovation Foundation where around 70% of awardees are school dropouts. The only area where they lag behind is English language. IITs and IIMs have been made exclusive preserve of the English-knowing social elites.
Those from Deprived sections need the right kind of support, so that they can climb the social ladder and help make India an egalitarian society.
To prevent anyone from taking advantage of such a scheme again and again, a clause can be added where a student would be allowed only once in his life to enjoy the benefits of reservation. After enjoying that benefit he/she should be placed under General Category. Also the Reservations should be there only for a certain period of time, as they where originally supposed to be, say till 2015 or 2020.
If we feel that only reservation schemes can bring equality in the society, then we are mistaken. Reservations are a part of the bigger scheme. As the Mandal commission had suggested that inaddition to reservations in educational institutions, govt. jobs we need separate coaching facility for students aspiring to enter technical and professional institutions, special vocation-oriented programme for deprived sections, progressive land reforms, creation of chain of financial and technical bodies to assist entrepreneurs from deprived sections , upgradation of skills of village artisans and providing loans for setting up SME’s , and over and above strict imprisonment for anyone discriminating on the basis of caste/religion….
Nevertheless, any of these should not compromise with quality , something for which India is known.