Reservation, something we have heard about so much that now every second person you meet gives an expert opinion on the issue. It was something that was started way back in the early 50s initially as a means to let the weaker and previously maligned sections of the society receive equal opportunities as the people who had been born in privilege. To anyone who may not be aware of it, it is a sort of affirmative action for the minorities. It has been a controversial for decades now and there seems to be no end in sight to the ever raging debate. The debate peaked in 1992 as a result of which the Supreme Court of India had to put a cap on reservation at 50%. The states then found a few loopholes and there are many states across India now where the reservation numbers lie north of the 50% mark.
The question to ask now is why is the reservation system still needed in our country? There are two possible answers, it is and it’s not. Both the answers come with their own merits and demerits which I won’t really discuss since they are pretty popular on social media but I would like to talk more about this system and the principle it is based on is more complicated than we think it is.
“Equal Opportunity but not equal results” This is the principle that all reservations are based on. What is difficult to understand is that when does an opportunity become a result? I will try and explain. Consider you wish to be a doctor and for that you have to pursue MBBS. It is pretty obvious that in order to do that you must get admission in an MBBS college. The thing is admission in MBBS colleges is considered an opportunity by our system rather than a result of the entrance exam. All the minority students who appear for the exam will have a lower cut off since they must be given the opportunity to pursue MBBS. Whether or not they manage to pass all the years and end up with the degree is up to them and there is no reservation in exams which make you qualify from MBBS. After this if you wish to pursue a master’s course, you must again appear for an entrance examination and again we get the whole process of giving all the students an equal opportunity to pursue a Post Graduate course which is why there is reservation in those exams as well. This is how the system works, the thing that we don’t understand well enough is that every opportunity arrives as a result of a previous result.
The anguish that students feel when this happens is understandable. It is very hard to accept the fact that a person who got 60% marks less than you is going to be a part of your dream college and you are not. This is obviously hard to understand but I still don’t have any idea on how we can improve the system. Some suggest we should move from a caste based reservation an economic based one but that ignores the people who have to face casteism in their day to day life and tries to belittle the rampant casteism prevalent in India today.
It is also true that reservation has become a political tool for politicians, wherein you have communities willing to vote for any party which grants them some reservation in educational or governmental institutes. It is something which continues to exist even though we can see so many faults in it. The problem is if we take it to one extreme we would end deciding how many babies a family can have based on their caste and if we go to the other extreme, we will have people who are ill-treated and downtrodden by casteism having no chance to change their life. It is truly a moral dilemma which we face. What would you do if you were in power? What would your course action be? Suggestions are always welcome.