Sunday 19 December 2010

Who will bell the cat?

Many of my friends used to say, in India, you have to be a person born FC( Forward Caste) or SC/ST( Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe). It is the BCs( Backward Classes) who bear the brunt as always. Though I am totally antagonistic against the caste system rampant in India, I must hang my head in shame on seeing no progress even after six decades. Post Independence, things were supposed to change. The suppressed Harijans( Mahatma Gandhi’s coinage- meaning ‘Hari”- God, “Jan”- people) were supposed to be given more opportunities for growth and development. They go by the name Dalits( crushed ones) too. The reservations for
started way back, starting from presence in Parliament to seats in schools, colleges, reservation for employment in Government and aided sectors. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India listed some erstwhile groups as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities. The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of vacancies to government aided educational institutes and for jobs in the government/public sector, as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the situation was to be reviewed. This period was routinely extended by the succeeding governments. The Supreme Court has finally fixed the quota as 50%. But in our own state Tamil Nadu, it is a whopping 69%.Untouchable @ National Geographic Magazine

This is not to discuss the quota system, but the adverse effects of it. The law of reservation was supposed to be reviewed every five years, but all Governments have been passing the buck fearing a vote-bank crisis. Now we can see people from SCST occupying plump jobs, moving up fast the ladders of promotions and postings. Vice of  being a person from BC and working in a Government Organisation, I have seen many of my Supervisors who lack even the basic working knowledge. They sit in top positions, as “Best among failures”. I wonder how that can be, a “best” among failure. The Best among our  failures is the caste based reservation quota system that has now left many people of the FC and BC jobless or disoriented and disgruntled in their current jobs. Why would not merit and experience be given utmost importance in promotions? That goodness, this is not plaguing the private sector where there is cut throat competition which the FCs play with ‘elan. Left out in these two races are the BCs. Instead of uprooting the dated Caste system, our Governments have sowed the seeds of hatred and vice of Class divide.

Funnier, the Government’s SCST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is a thorn in our legal system that has to be repealed immediately. In a recent judgement, a Delhi Court has stated there is rampant misuse of this Act, which carries a non-bailable warrant for the offender. "Unfortunately, one comes across growing instances of cases where the provisions of this Act have not so much been invoked for the betterment of those to whom it seeks to protect, than by those who want to settle personal scores by giving to an otherwise ordinary dispute, the colour of an alleged atrocity under the Act," Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said.

The court observed that the provisions of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, meant to protect the lot of the exploited sections, should not be allowed to be misused.

"Law cannot be the absolute property of a few and this court can only hope and appeal that the provisions of this Special Legislation are not abused by a few so as to ensure that its benefit is able to actually reach the exploited sections," ASJ Lau said.

Again there is no denying the fact that 160 million of Indians are from the lower castes and most of them are ignorant of the SCST Act. Most of these people in rural India are unaware of the law, while their counter parts in the cities are using this law as a weapon to settle personal scores. Lacklustre laws and legal impediments have fuelled the Maoist Movement in India. It is in the interest of the nation to repeal the existing caste based reservation law and enact such reservation based on 'creamy layer' including the SCSTs too.

Repealing the caste based law of reservation is something that is of utmost importance but our politicos are afraid to bell the cat. It takes some guts to call a spade a spade, guts that all our politicians lack. Let us see who stands upto the challenge…


  1. Potentially a good post where I understand that you carefully wanted to give a unbiased opinion on the quota system. You first line failed you though.

    I belong to the forward caste (only by government definition of my birth) but led a very difficult childhood where I have seen my family skip my many a meals due to poverty and the other evils that accompany it. Quota system ensured to put in additional difficulties for getting my education / job.

    I don't think anyone but the politicians have anything to gain from quota system in the long term. FCs Lose their right to education/jobs, SC/STs lose their friends and BCs probably both.

    Ironically, rather than removing the caste divide, Quota system just ensured that people are more aware of their castes, but for it, today, I wouldn't know the castes many of my friends belong to.

    Given the obvious intentions of politicians, the only way we can eradicate this today, is encourage our children to opt out of utilizing the quota.

    I personally know a IAS officer who has done that. It was her last attempt, but that didnt deter her from choosing the right path. She has shown the way, we just need to follow her.


  2. My heartfelt thanks to u karthik,yours is the very first comment in my blog:)Happy that u too agree and the example you mentioned of the girl gets all our appreciations. Reg the first line, it is a statement that i have been hearing right from my childhood, something that is said with such hatred. I hope that statement did not impede the credibility of arguments for and against the caste based quota system. Though individual initiative is appreciated, change in existing system by enacting economy based quota system is the need of the hour:)

  3. nice write up. well done nivesitha .its high time to review reservation system. but its highly controversial and linked to vote bank politics, only one solution at sight.
    the SC/ST s who have availed reservation for 2 or 3 generations should voluntarily give way for their unlucky brethern.i know that IAS officer who stand as an example. still long way to go since only creamy layer (i would like to call forward among SC/ ST s) are only reaping the benefits of reservation policy. reservation on promotions needs urgent review. i am writing a note on origin of caste system in india. do give me feedback. best wishes.

  4. Ramnath, why would some one give up the so called 'right' they have been exercising for six decades? I dont think that is possible. And regarding that reservations in promotions, think you will understand better as you might have come across many in our organisation. And yes, caste based reservation needs a totally unbiased top priority review. Sure, will read your note and comment:)

  5. An old post, but yet I feel the need to comment. FC's do not enjoy any privileges in the private sector as you seem to say. FC's have learnt to be resilient and the only place where they can find a hold is in the private sector.


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