Reservations and affirmative action haven’t succeeded

If you have been following news, especially after the Narendra Modi government assumed power in India, the entire social structure of the country seems to have gone to the dogs. There is hahakaar everywhere.

Minorities are in danger, SCs and STs are being victimized, farmers are being shortchanged and hence, are being forced to commit suicide, the soldiers haven’t gotten justice, and basically, every class that was meant to be uplifted through reservations and special minority status, haven’t fared the way they were expected to fare.

Manmohan Singh famously said that Muslims have first claim on resources. Successive governments in U.P., Bihar, West Bengal and many other South Indian states have been formed on the plank of uplifting the weaker sections of the society. There is a famous Yadav-Muslim combination that consistently seems to benefit Samajvadi Party. The same holds true for Mayawati, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha in one way or another.

All these political parties, political outfits and political figures have thriven by offering reservations to various religious and social classes — minorities (mostly Muslims), SCs, STs and OBCs. Every social or religious class that can be given a reservation and hence, can be used for political benefits, is given reservation.

Despite that, if you go by various debates on TV and articles in the liberal media, the most victimized and targeted classes in the country are those that have been the beneficiaries of the reservation system. The Sachar Committee Report was the most damning indictment of the failure of the various welfare schemes targeted towards Muslims. Despite an almost infinite list of benefits given to the Muslim community, the committee claims that it is still one of the most, educationally and economically, communities in the country. And this is when, if you go by school and college history books, Muslims were the ruling class for more than 500 years.

Just like in India we have the reservation system, in America they have the affirmative action. Although, living in India, thousands of kilometres away from America, I cannot comment on how successful or unsuccessful the affirmative action has been, going by the reports that we are constantly bombarded with, Blacks and minorities are still being targeted in America and they are constantly being victimized by Whites.

It means reservations and the affirmative action failed to solve the purpose they were meant to solve — bring certain communities at par with the majority community so that they don’t feel victimized and they have equal access to opportunities available in a democracy or a socialist environment.

We get contrarian views. Champions of the various reservation policies say that reservations and affirmative action is do help.

But then the same champions say that the suppressed classes haven’t been helped much whether they are Muslims or the lower caste Hindus. They are still being targeted. They still don’t get jobs. They still don’t have access to education and medical facilities. They are still victimized by upper caste Hindus in India and the Whites in America.

Many may say that although reservations and affirmative action may not be panacea, it has certainly helped many communities, and they may be right, but is it worth the cost the rest of the country has to pay, especially in India? Without reservations, political opportunists and criminals like Mulayam, Mayawati and Laloo wouldn’t have had much success and they wouldn’t have gotten a chance to ruin their respective states.

If the South Indian states these days are complaining that much of their wealth is sucked up by North Indian states, especially backward states like U.P. and Bihar, it’s the politicians mentioned above who were responsible and these politicians have derived their political might from the reservation system. Considering how much destruction they have wrought upon the country, is it really worth it?

Now every community wants a piece of the pie, and why not? If my neighbour gets privileges — real and imaginary — just because he is a Muslim or historically lower caste, why shouldn’t I if somehow, I can prove that I’m also underprivileged? Why shouldn’t I support the political party that gives me reservations, that makes it easier for my kid to get into schools and colleges without getting good grades and then government jobs without much qualification?

The worst part is, as long as you appear to be the champion of the lower castes and the minorities, you can get away with murder. And I’m not using “get away with murder” as a figure of speech, I mean they actually get away with murder and nobody seems to mind much.

The worst sort of corruption goes on in the name of fighting for the cause of the suppressed classes and the minorities and people simply look the other way. Lalu has just been sentenced a 14-year jail term for just the fodder scam, and he is an angel compared to our various other political luminaries. You can easily find photographs of many of our “conscience keepers” rubbing shoulders with him and going gaga over his “rustic charm”.

These people have made corruption as acceptable as the vehicular pollution — a necessary evil. To eliminate social inequality, these corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and activists need to be supported.

People don’t understand that corruption is a cancer. Even the so-called champions (or at least the intellectual clique among them) know that the greatest victims of a corrupt system are the very people they champion the cause of.

In the above image, even when he has been jailed on multiple charges, the hospital staff is very eager to get photographed with him as if he is some hero.

A corrupt system means your administration doesn’t work the way it should, your healthcare system doesn’t work the way it should, your education system doesn’t work the way it should, your bureaucracy doesn’t work the way it should, your justice system doesn’t work the way it should, and in fact, every aspect of your living becomes dilapidated. Even the top echelons of our judiciary are compromised and corrupt.

How can you expect such a society to strive for a better, just society? Everything is interrelated. You cannot expect morality and immorality to coexist. One or the other has to triumph and unfortunately, immorality has been triumphing in our country.

If I can get privileges due to my class or religion, why should I strive? If there are limited resources, why shouldn’t I eliminate my competition, especially when the political system, instead of creating more resources, wants to give me a privileged access to the existing resources?

What should have been the way forward?

The tragedy in India has been that as our nation took its birth, the country was straddled by political pygmies instead of great visionaries. Political pygmies always go for short-term solutions and even these short-term solutions are not solutions for the country, but for their political careers. Politicians like Nehru and Indira Gandhi wanted to consolidate their political positions rather than working for the overall betterment of the country.

They got there “divide and rule” cues from the British for whom this policy had been remarkably effective. Just like the British, they started dividing the society on the basis of language, caste and religion and then pitched one section against the other creating a victim mentality in every section.

As long as you can keep certain sections of the society perpetually on the edge and pretend to be fighting for their cause, you don’t have to do much for them. You don’t have to develop their villages and towns. You don’t have to improve law and order. You don’t have to give them education and jobs. You don’t have to give them dignity. You don’t need to inculcate in them appreciation for cleanliness and a sense of pride. You can just pretend to be their champions. They will support you out of fear and out of greed.

From the beginning itself our politicians and leaders should have striven to create an equal society. The past is past, they should have said, and from now onwards, there are no victims and no perpetrators. Everyone in the country is equal.

Easier said than done? Of course.

To create a country where everyone felt equal, we needed a robust, highly fair justice system. We needed a justice system that was equally accessible to an Ambani living in Mumbai and a tribal living in Bastar.

Evil lives in a society where there is an absence of an effective justice system. When people don’t get justice, they resort to unfair means because they know that being fair isn’t going to help them much. They go for shortcuts. Everybody wants to become powerful because it is the power that gets things done and not your fundamental rights.

A functional justice system shows you that your fundamental rights are always going to be protected no matter how strong the person who wants to curb your fundamental rights is. So, whether you are an SC, or an ST, or a Muslim, or an OBC or an upper caste Hindu, you have equal access to education, health services, transportation, sanitation, employment, and whatever a democratic and socialist system offers you. Even if someone gets privilege over another, you can always approach your justice system and get justice.

Our politicians, caste champions, intellectuals and activists have always offered painkillers instead of dealing with the actual disease. The actual disease is the absence of a justice system. Since people don’t get justice, they don’t even expect it. They just want a painkiller because they know that the disease isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, even the painkiller is not an actual painkiller. It is a racket to keep people in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty. The benefit of these painkillers is artificial, but the resentment created due to them is real. So, you kill two birds with a single stone: you keep one community feeling like a victim despite pretending to give it privileges and you keep the other community resentful by making it constantly feel underprivileged and targeted.

Talking about the other community being resentful, my wive’s friend’s daughter is trying to get admission in some post-MBBS course for which she gave the usual exam. Her all India ranking is 3000 (or somewhere around). She is constantly crying that she is not getting her preferred stream in her preferred college whereas SC/ST candidates whose ranking is between 30,000–40,000 have a better choice than her due to their caste.

Switch the castes and people will scream “discrimination” and “upper caste majoritarianism”, but in this case, it is “inclusion” and “upliftment”. What sort of inclusion and upliftment is this when talented young doctors and engineers are denied opportunities in favour of those who, due to whatever reason, aren’t as qualified as they should be?

Coming back to the concept of painkillers, now they have gotten so used to, rather, have gotten addicted to, painkillers, that even the thought of them not getting the painkillers mortifies them, enrages them, makes them feel more victimized. They don’t want a developed country. They don’t want a country where there are equal opportunities for everyone — heck who cares for equal opportunities? All they want is, THEY should get the opportunities.

If the so-called forefathers really cared for the people of the country, instead of constantly dividing them and offering them goodies based on to which caste and to which religion they belonged, they would have put all their energies into creating a very strong justice system. The rest would have been taken care of on its own.