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Reservation is not a Poverty Alleviation Program but a Weapon for Social Justice
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Reservation is not a Poverty Alleviation Program but a Weapon for Social Justice

Vikas Parasram Meshram

Much has been written on the split decision of the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court upholding reservation for economically weaker sections; therefore, it is unnecessary to repeat it. Only one point needs to be highlighted: there was no disagreement in the constitution bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding economic reservation. A five-judge bench agreed that reservation should be given to economically weaker sections, and it is consistent with the basic nature of the Constitution. The disagreement was over whether economically disadvantaged groups such as Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCs would benefit from this reservation.

In all societies of the world there has been some kind of discrimination. It has happened on the basis of race, caste, caste. The result is that some sections of the society are economically, educationally and politically backward. Affirmative action is implemented to bring these groups to an equal footing in society and prevent discrimination. It refers to provisions or procedures aimed at eliminating unlawful discrimination between people in society, removing the effects of such past discrimination and preventing such discrimination in the future. It is an act of identifying and benefiting a group that is socially disadvantaged and discriminated against in societal culture.

When the discussion of casteism, communal violence, and caste discrimination in our country begins, it eventually reaches reservation, and the historical oppression of such a large deprived section of the population disappears, and the entire issue becomes reservation versus rights. Daily reports of communal violence fill the newspapers, and reservations are discussed, caste itself is dismissed, and the situation is argued to have changed. An attempt is made to prove that all are equal by citing examples of Dalits occupying high positions. Then in the whole process, the entire cruel system of caste is conveniently ignored.

As a result, a large debate is being deliberately spread throughout society about whether the basis of reservation should be economic so that all those in need can benefit from it.

It is often forgotten that caste reservation does not benefit all of the poor. Thus, in our country, constitutional coercion is being used to conceal the true intent of affirmative action in the form of reservation, as well as the truth of the caste system, and the entire concept of reservation is being attacked.

Caste is the main weapon of discrimination and exploitation in our country, and its nature is different from that of other countries. Caste is not only a tool of discrimination here, but it is also the bedrock of Hindu society, and it not only ensures but also supports the grossly unequal distribution of resources and power in society. In fact, Shudras and Atishudras are not part of the Hindu society.

The main purpose of reservation is to bring the Dalits and Tribals, who have been pushed to the corners for thousands of years, into the mainstream of society. Reservation alone will not empower the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, but many other efforts will have to be made along with reservation. Secondly, the purpose of reservation is not only economic empowerment. Reservation is a multi-pronged effort to increase the representation of disadvantaged groups in education and government jobs. The benefit of reservation is not only limited to the beneficiary but also extends to their families and communities and opens closed doors for them as well. When marginalized people make policy, more inclusive policies are made. The long-term objective of reservation is the individual and collective social upliftment of the beneficiary. Social equality is an important objective because caste discrimination not only deprives disadvantaged castes of resources but also results in social slavery.

So proponents of economic reservation should understand that reservation is not a poverty alleviation program which aims to remove poverty of individual or family. It is not necessary to give an example that reservation provides economic benefits to the disadvantaged castes, but social equality has to go through a long process. Don’t we know that there are many caste prejudices among their subordinates against Dalits working in high positions? Economically able Dalit students and teachers also face caste discrimination in higher educational institutions of the country.

This needs to be clarified before proceeding. It is right that poverty should be eradicated from society, and poor families are not left behind in education and then out of the job race due to lack of resources. So they need a helping hand to move forward.

But while supporting it, it is very necessary to assert the correct concept of the provision of reservation in the constitution.

We should consider the reactions of the citizens, media, and intellectuals of our country regarding the implementation of the 103rd constitutional amendment by the government in 2019 and now that the honourable Supreme Court has upheld it. The casteist face of our society will come to the forefront. Our newspapers and television channels do not miss a single opportunity to start a discussion against reservation; it is a different matter that the news of communal violence and discrimination never makes their headlines. Many intellectuals in the country firmly take the stand that they are against reservation in principle, against all kinds of reservations. When the Mandal Commission came into force, there were fierce and violent protests across the country. Many organizations like ‘Youth for Equality’ were established in many educational institutions throughout the country and are still functioning today. However, there was no opposition to implementing reservations for economically weaker sections. The theorists who oppose reservations on the principle of equality are blissfully silent.

No one cares about so-called quality anymore. But where is the missing Dronacharya who is concerned about quality? No hashtag trended on social media either. But why? Because when reservation is for dominant castes then everything is fine. But if the hardworking but deprived castes of the country get a share, the quality is disrespected. This is utter hypocrisy. Although the real question is that till date the courts have not allowed the reservation limit to go above 50%. In a way after the case of Indra Sawhney and others v. Central Govt it was established that the limit of reservation cannot be increased beyond 50 per cent. But in the present case, the Supreme Court not only overturned everything but also gave a very unique explanation.

Earlier very strict criteria were applied to implement reservation. The courts had the same attitude. For example, if a caste wants to get the benefit of Scheduled Caste reservation, there should be a thorough test that the caste is extremely backward. There are various criteria for this. This needs to be supported with concrete evidence that the identified community is historically disadvantaged and suffers from under-representation, which is significant enough to warrant reservation. But neither the government nor the Supreme Court has imposed any such strict conditions while implementing reservation for EWS. However, it is also seen that it is not for the economically backward. If a person who earns 70 thousand rupees a month is poor, what do we call those crores of people whose monthly income is less than 15 thousand rupees? The average income of the citizens of the country is one and a half lakh rupees per annum and income tax is payable on an annual income of two and a half lakh rupees. Eligibility conditions for EWS reservation are completely baseless. SC/ST reservations are heavily criticized by the social contractors for not benefiting the poor Dalits and Tribals, but in the name of EWS, these so-called intellectuals have granted reservation directly to the economically rich. It seems, the upper castes have the legal right to kill others even in education and employment.

Exclusion of poor Dalits, tribals and OBCs from EWS quota is also a matter of serious concern. Those deprived of education and resources and attributed with social inferiority will be the poorest, no research is needed. Only 5.4 percent of the poor come from general castes, so why 10 percent reservation for them?

The purpose of reservation is to create an equal society by eliminating social and economic backwardness and inequality arising from historical discrimination. In our country, this discrimination has not happened with individuals but with caste-groups. Therefore the group identity of man has become his caste. For this reason, caste is recognized as the ground for reservation to end inequality and exploitation. In contrast, EWS reservation clearly emphasizes individual economic status, which is not linked to social group identity. There are also concerns that this EWS reservation decision will fundamentally change the group-based reservation policy and make it individual-centric. To put it simply, constitutionally, the basis of reservation is not economic. Given the current climate, there are more risks that economic aspects will be prioritized over social caste based reservation in the future. This ideology under political auspices is openly attacking the constitution to restore casteism in our country; the trend which started with EWS reservation is seen moving towards the end of caste reservation. On the one hand there is a definite rehabilitation of caste.

This is a matter for deep concern: while implementing the entire reservation policy, we notice that the number of public institutions is low due to massive privatization in the country. Where will you get reservation when public institutions will not last? The situation is that even in public institutions in the field of higher education, the fees have increased to such an extent that students are unable to complete their education despite reservation. There is no question of reservation or any kind of affirmative action in the private sector.

Therefore, while there is a need to fight to preserve the right concept of reservation, there is also a need to continuously fight against the government’s economic policies which kill opportunities for the underprivileged through privatization. This battle for social justice will have to be fought on both fronts. Salvation of the working class will be possible only through struggle and it is not possible otherwise. The rulers of the country will adopt all kinds of strategies to break our unity. The point is simple: there should be proportionate representation in all institutions of state and society. A caste wise census is required for that.

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Vikas Parasram Meshram is a Social Worker in Zarpada village, Arjuni tehsil, Gondia district in Maharashtra. He can be contacted at: vikasmeshram04@gmail.com

Image courtesy: Kuffir