Current debate of OBC reservation vs Merit is a red herring. The argument that merit should be the only criterion for entry into education institutions is flawed. Best institutes worldwide follow a selection method where diversity is one of the criterions. Besides, a good number of seats in most institutes are what we call Management Quota, which is a form of reservation as well – Shall we say reserved for the rich??
Considering there is huge ability gap between various sets of Indian citizens, some sort of reservations is in-evitable. The biggest divide that you can witness today is the Urban/Rural divide. A rural student is at a disadvantage from both the standard and medium of education as well access to information. For urban students Internet is an everyday reality, which rural students rarely ever see. Similar divides exists within society and even between states.
However, current reservations proposed by Indian Parliament (indeed by our entire political leadership without an exception) is totally flawed. Their concept of Social Justice is in reality a total negation of the spirit of Indian Republic.
Our political class never gets tired of reminding us that we are a democracy, and they as the elected representatives, have the final say. And they, after considering the majority opinion, will decide what is good for the country. This is a dangerous argument that no one seems to be countering.
Our founding fathers did not create a Democratic India. They created the “Republic of India”, which happens to elect its governments democratically. But, We aren’t governed by the majority opinion. We are governed by the rule of Law and constitution. The constitution provided some fundamental rights to the people. After much deliberation and intellection our founding fathers decided that a positive discrimination was needed for uplifting SC/STs. Realizing the patent unfairness of this measure, they restricted such a discrimination to 10years. What successive governments have done is not only perpetualize this arrangement, but even extend it to classes that have no clear definitions.
The problem lies here. Let us carefully consider the argument for reservation for OBCs. The argument goes that they constitute 52% of the population (Mandal’s estimate). Considering this is right, they then have the political power to make or break the governments in India. So, no political party dependent on popular vote can afford to displease them. And that explains why no political party or leader is speaking against this constitutional amendment and resulting reservations.
The problem is precisely this. We are turning our republic, which is supposed to be based on Rule of Law, into a Mobocracy – or rule of brute majority. OBCs are the majority and they can get what they want. In perpetuity… The real danger of the current situation is not so much loss of merit, because I believe there are enough meritorious people in all castes, and there will be competition for even reserved seats.
But, what we presently see is a majority political force, trying to drown out the desperation of the minority. Consider this – If there are 52% OBCs, some 23% SC and STs, then another 12% muslims another 5% various other religions, it all adds up to above 90%. If so, then the rest of what is called upper-castes are hopeless minority, whose votes don’t/can’t get any representation. They are unprotected and become deserving of the safeguard provisions of minority protections provided by various clauses of constitution.
Our parliament has excluded the Minority institutions from the purview of the reservations. The logic is that Minority institutions need protection. Considering the Upper-castes (Brahmins lets us say), are a minority by the definition above, can they get the same protection?? Will any institution started by these communities be protected from all reservations?
That also brings out another interesting question. If you take out the incentive for any community to pool their resources together to start a private, un-aided institute and provide education to whom ever they wish, then you start discouraging creation of educational institutions. While govt. claims it doesn’t have money to create enough schools/colleges, how can it discourage people from creating this infrastructure themselves?? Why would I put in my money to educate someone else, when I can’t be sure my own children will get in to an educational institutes I help create?? If I know the chances of my kith and kin ever studying in such an institute is very less?
So, If these measures stand the scrutiny of our legal system, and become a reality, I foresee a future, where people will test our constitution to the limits. Upper caste religious heads will start educational initiatives, as part of their religious teachings, and will provide ways to attend online examinations of various foreign universities and obtain foreign degrees, that will be recognized by companies in India and abroad. This will completely bypass the Indian govt. approved education system, and will force Indian govt. to legislate prohibiting or controlling such education by religious groups. And, that will lead to a conflict which will have implications on religious freedom as well.
I hope our supreme court will show its wisdom and pre-empt such future scenarios.