Thursday, January 05, 2006

Some reserved comments

Two recent HC judgements have brought reservations for Muslims back into the spotlight. Earlier the AP High Court quashed the 5% reservation for Muslims enacted by the AP Govt (a poll promise) and now the Allahabad HC has barred 50% reservation in the Aligarh Muslim University.
Now it is a known fact that Muslims remain disadvantaged in terms of employment in both public and private sector. The figures show that only 3-4% of posts belong to Muslims whereas they represent 14-15% of the population (actually figures could be higher when you include illegal immigration from Bangladesh).
The history of reservation in this country is a mixed bag. There has been steady emancipation of the backward classes since the implementation of the Mandal recommendations in states where casteism played a key role like UP, Bihar and Rajasthan. But in the same states, the caste-based politicization has increased the cleft between the various castes. In a way each caste waits for an opportunity to get back at the other and the reservations have made sure that there would be some caste member who can bend the law. But atleast in this case, there was enough causality between casteism and backwardness of such classes in this states.
The case of Muslim backwardness is stranger. One factor behind the perceived discrimination could be the higher growth rate of Muslims in India in the last decade, so the country's lower rate of growth could not accomodate this. Another factor could be that more Muslims choose self-employment over service. Moreover there have been enough Muslim role models like SRK, Azhar etc in non-employment based options like Bollywood and sports. But there are some other issues that plague this community like appeasement politics that creates simplistic solutions like reservation to complicated problems and lack of leadership to increase education and awareness. Ghettoization of Muslim communities prevents access to mainstream schooling in some cases even in cities like Mumbai (name a good school from Dongri or Behrampada). Also some strict adherence to the religion also prevents the community from practically embracing the open opportunities in this modern world. Another factor could be the % of Muslims from traditionally backward states like UP and Bihar could be higher thus proving to be a double whammy.
All said and done, reservations do not provide a complete answer. Even reservations over a long run change the social fabric. A case in point is Tamil Nadu , one of the earliest states to adopt reservation. Although the backward classes have benefited tremendously due to almost 80% reservation, the poor Brahmin is disadvantaged. Many Brahmin students do not get admission to good colleges inspite of excellent marks ( witness the big Tambram contingent in places like BITS and IIT). In fact popular Tamil cinema make the Brahmin a butt of ridicule and ribald jokes.
I guess the time has come to think of the Mandal reservation as a one-time ticket. If the chief bread earner has used it , his son cannot use it unless they continue to be economically backward. Otherwise the reservation system would cause serious mediocrity in the class and over the long run hurt classes that currently have no reservation.


At 7:48 PM, Blogger ecophilo said...

Reservations, reservations, reservations. It has screwed up many a career and now some retrogressive people are lining up to do the same at the private sector too. We will continue to see brain drain in India if reservations continue at this pace. Which is why from the south of india (tambrams etc.)steadily emigrate in search of better opportunities. One question I have never understood is why cant the Brahmin ever be a minority?

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Shivaji said...

I am not sure if one-time ticket is fair. For instance thousands of years of segregation, menial jobs, and closed marriages may have already put lower castes at a position of genetic disadvantage. In India, we don't have studies as were done on Ashkenazi jews, these studies showed that closed populations could indeed diverge genetically. so the question is whether it is enough to provide reservation benefits for just one generation to compensate for thousands of years of known and (unknown) disadvantages. Different countries had mixed results with reservations. It is generally accepted that the US overdid it, but Red Indians still remain segregated and disadvantagd in US, heavily dependant on state doles. Australia's attempt to forcefully integrate aborigines in the 60s was a horrible failure. It's one of the most difficult issues where the moral verdict is not clear.


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