There’s been so much hullabaloo over the reservation issue over the past year, with various sections of society up in arms over the governments proposed move to provide a 50% quota in higer education. Various points have been raised by both sides and the matter has been well and truly debated and dissected time and again in the national media. Perhaps that’s why I refrained from commenting so far. But a comment I overheard has got me thinking and hence this post.

First a little background. About two years back the Delhi government brought a law, supported by the delhi high court, which required that private schools being run on government leased land, provide a percentage of seats for free education for the backward sections of society. The reaction was predictable. Schools and parents came out with varied reasons as to why the government move was totalitarian in the extreme. The governments logic was that for schols runnig on govenment leased land, and with the lease rate as low as 1 rupee per acre, it was only fair that some of the benefits of education in the so called prestigous schools of the capital be passed down to the unprivileged sections of society. The schools finally agreed and the order was implemented.

Coming to the crux. I recently overheard a teacher (no I wasn’t eavesdropping) from a very respectable school complaining about the loss of standard in the junior sections she taught. “The crowd we get nowadays I tell you. The parent teacher meeting is a sham! All i see is village-type people. Ugh!”. I was shocked. I hadn’t expected this kind of prejudice from the so-called custodians of knowledge. Indeed if this is the situation with the teachers, then it’s not too hard to imagine the kind of treatment the students from the reserved seats might be getting from their classmates.

The government may be trying hard to push for affirmative action, but as long as this kind of prejudice exists in Indian society, I’m afraid it isn’t going to get far. Behind all the cries about dilution of merit from aggrieved organizations, there lies a fundamental bias, one that has been ingrained in Indian society since the first basic caste system evolved.
Don’t mistake my intentions here. I DO NOT suport the government’s across the board 50% reservation. It reeks of a cheap vote gimmick rather than a genuine intent towards social justice. The govt has been too short sighted while framing policy, and instead of a system based on caste, which only furthers prejudice, it should have opted for an economic condition based reservation, again with a distinct plan as to when and where the reservation benefits for a particular family or community should stop.

I myself am an OBC, and I wouldn’t have reached where I am today if it hadn’t been for the dirt cheap education my parents got. Through reservations. They both only had to pay a fraction of the fee in the colleges they studied in.

I wonder where I would have been today if there had been no reservations.


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