In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has approved 50 per cent reservation for the weaker sections in private institutions. The move could prove to be helpful if the benefit was shared universally by all the members in whose name such provisions are granted. Unfortunately, the benefits have been going to affluent and powerful families among the lower castes, leaving the real dispossessed high and dry. The elite groups thus created consider themselves superior to their own caste members.
The only way to bring about harmonious progress of weaker sections is to offer opportunity by turns. A family that availed the benefit of reservation once should not be allowed to reap the benefits again. Otherwise, the real Dalits will remain Dalits forever.
The corrective measure can be implemented like in the NREGS that guarantees 100 days’ employment to BPL families and the village headman is the regulatory authority. If in the proposed National Identity Card it is entered whether the family is a beneficiary of reservation, it can help plan alleviation of the remainder of the families. Alternatively, such a card can be issued through village heads or city corporators and its copy enclosed with the application form for a post. There should be reservation, certainly: for those Dalits who are eligible but have not received a job so far.
The present reservation policy at the promotion level harms the national interest. When reservation is implemented in promotions and employees with little experience are made departmental heads, it brings discontent to offices.
There is no denying that caste Hindus committed injustice to Dalits who deserve an opportunity to make up for the loss. But, the caste Hindus should not be forced to inherit the sins of their ancestors. The notion that reservation is a right is dangerous. It amounts to perpetuating reservation for ages to come.
There can be a debate on excellence versus harmonious growth of society. Pandit Nehru stood for excellence when he wrote in 1961: “I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in services”. Rajiv Gandhi was no less candid when he told the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh in 1990: “you have ignited caste violence all over the country”. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel also viewed reservation as against the national interest but honoured the Poona Pact signed in 1932 between the Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar and caste Hindus guided by Mahatma Gandhi. Reservation of 8.5 per cent to Scheduled Castes for ten years ending in 1960 was granted. Today’s politicians must understand they do not have a broader or better vision than Gandhi, Nehru and Patel.
S B Misra is a retired university professor
The views expressed by the author are personal