Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reservation: Is it being approached appropriately?

Reservation. The matter today synonymous with India has been much debated, discussed, argued for and against, and at the same time often avoided because of its sensitive nature. Article 15(1) of the Indian constitution states that the State shall not discriminate against anyone on the ground of sex, caste, race, religion, place of birth or anything. So it essentially grants equality to all, irrespective of their background - social or economic. But again, as per Article 15(4) it allows the State to make special provisions for the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.

One can argue that the Constitution makers were seeing or foreseeing discrimination at various levels but this has turned into a very touchy topic. While I agree reservation is important, for many a times, people from ‘lower castes’ do not receive their due, are ignored or passed over which is not at all fair, especially in a country whose constitution stands for equality, isn’t it also important that for greener leaves, the roots must be strong? In our country, there is still a lack of basic education for all, while there is clamour for reservation in institutions for higher studies, which is kind of absurd.

Also, reservation just strengthens the caste and religious differences. There are chances of a psychological effect on people, and those trying to fight caste/religious differences and avoid discrimination on the basis of caste or religion are fighting a losing battle because reservation is merely strengthening those identities often compromising a more deserving candidate for one with a certain caste or religion’s certificate. So even if reservation needs to be done, there must a subtle, fair approach to it.

Imagine a scenario wherein a boy is trying for admission in a college. His father is an Engineer or a Senior Manager, his mother is a professor. He lives a comfortable life, not in the lap of luxury but most of his needs and wants are being catered to most of the times, and he has enough money to dispense for his needs and/or for his leisure. Now he gets very average marks in the 12th grade. But he gets admission into the college of his choice merely because he provides a caste certificate of belonging to an SC, ST or an OBC and there is reservation for people from this caste. So he manages to get a seat, and has a rebate in the fees.

Now imagine a scenario, where a boy’s father is carpenter, or a tailor, or even a peon in an office. His mother is a housewife who struggles to get in extra money to the household by taking up odd jobs such as at a construction site. They have three simple meals, even two at times. The father does not even have a scooter to transport him to work. But he does not manage to get admission to the college, despite his caste certificate (A) because he cannot afford even the rebated fees, and (B) because he has received low grades in the local school he went to where he was not taught proper English, which is often the medium of instruction at college/university level.

Who do YOU think deserves the reserved seat more?

Instead of reserving seats left, right and centre on the basis of religion or caste, there must be two changes:

  1. The education system at the basic level must be strengthened. The Right To Education Act has been passed indeed. But is it being rightfully implemented? Are children being sent to school by parents? If they are, are the teachers even there to teach them? And are the teachers doing their job with diligence? These are a few questions or issues that must be looked into by authorities and must be corrected. The foundation must be strong, only then will the child benefit from reservation. What will a child do with a reserved seat in say, a prestigious law college like NALSAR, when he doesn’t even read or understand Basic English and has no or little knowledge of the concepts of civics, and society?
  2. Reservation must not be merely on the basis of caste but take into account economically backward people. Once the educational basics are strong, those who are economically backward must be given a fair chance. A child may have to give up on his ‘reserved’ seat in a college merely because he is unable to afford even the discounted fees.

The issue of reservation is yet to be explored properly. The government and the authorities need to look into these and a few other pertinent issues. Also, while reservation is certainly essential in most areas, there must be a fair balance, which our vote bank driven politicians sadly fail to acknowledge!



Santosh Kumar (28) of Coimbatore, a young married man, with a little baby might never have even thought that his brutal death would invoke such little response and compassion by his city’s citizens. While he was being brutally thrashed and murdered at a traffic signal on July 10th, an event recorded by a hidden CCTV camera which led to the culprits being hauled up, nobody but nobody stopped to help him. People stopped at the signal and as it turned green sped off to their destinations, turning a blind eye to the horrific incident happening in front of them.

This tale makes me sick to my stomach. How can someone see somebody being so cruelly murdered in front of them and not even try to help? Is this what our people have become? Insensitive and numb to all sorts of horror so nothing effects them anymore? What is responsible for such numbness?

One reason could be the increasing openness with which news channels run gory, bloody pictures and videos of murder sites, bomb blasts victims, riots etc. The Hindu, a nationally acclaimed newspaper, put the photograph of the mangled remains of Rajiv Gandhi’s body after his assassination, which was a gruesome sight. When chided for this act, the Editor defended his decision by some valid arguments saying it was a true incident and so there was nothing wrong in presenting the truth to the public, and that the people would be aware of the barbarity of this assassination only through such hard hitting visuals. However, over the years, the media has not shied away from showing any grisly photograph or any ghastly video. While it hits the viewers/ readers and shakes them up to the reality and brutality of the world around them it has also led to a certain numbing of emotions. People are now so used to seeing such horrific sights that nothing shocks then anymore. Their threshold for tolerating such horrible scenes has increased manifold thanks to the desensitization process by the media.

Even the excessive violence we see in films today, with no holds barred, is responsible to an extent of numbing the people. This is a major cause of concern because if compassion and humanity are allowed to disappear, it can possibly spell disastrous consequences in the future. People will no longer be shocked by anything and would not realise the gravity of horrible occurrences.

Such a case brings to light the dire necessity for the media to exercise restraint on itself in showing grisly scenes and photographs. While truth must not be compromised but a sensitive approach must certainly be in place for every event. Otherwise what happened with Santosh Kumar, could happen on a larger scale tomorrow and I do not think anyone needs to spell out what that would result in eventually! (Please feel free to suggest what measures can be taken to prevent such desensitization and numbing of emotions from happening!)



A day after the fateful Mumbai blasts happened on what is being called now “13/7” I was watching the news where I saw our dear Mr. Rahul Gandhi delivering a statement to the media, “It is impossible to stop bomb blasts. Who all will we check?”

As I pondered on this statement of his I thought it made sense. Yes, we are all angry. Yes, we all want viable results and soon. But it is indeed a bloody difficult task to keep a constant vigilant check in a country with a population of 121 billion and growing! He is partly right. Who all will we check and where all will we check. Maybe in organized places we can, for example in a place like a mall, or Dilli Haat or an event happening etc. It is possible to keep checks on such places for there can be a tab kept on who is entering with what and with whom. But in places like open markets like Zaveri bazaar for instance, Opera House, or a Lajpat Nagar in Delhi or a Hazratganj in Lucknow, there is no particular entry or exit point. Where will we check? Who will we check? How will we check?

But a while later, I realized that while this statement does seem valid enough, it is, in all probability, merely an excuse being used by the government to cover up their backsides. The most in-our-face example we all know, is the case of 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in the US and what they did afterwards. They got their act together and how. One such failure, one attack and results COULD be seen. The attack employed the use of an aeroplane which flew into the building that unfortunate day – any particular entry point or exit point there? Not really. But, the US took measures, conducted rigorous investigations and rounded up the guilty (often even not so guilty for which they received much duly deserved flak) but the job was done.

However, let’s take a look at our nation now. The Varanasi blasts, the German Bakery blasts, the September 2008 serial blasts in New Delhi which was followed by the famous 26/11 terror siege in Mumbai – these are just few of the many, many blasts our country has witnessed over the years. Every time, innocent people suffer, anger simmers, people demand action, and authorities do a little something under public pressure, and while time moves on, the cases hardly do. How many cases can we say have been satisfactorily solved? Can we truly say our government and the concerned authorities have taken concrete steps to prevent further bomb blasts?

More so, when one hears jokers like Digvijay Singh make outrageous statements like “This attack (the 13/7 Mumbai serial blasts) has come after a gap of 31 months. Mumbai police is doing a good job,” and realises our dear leaders have no shame whatsoever; one feels even more discontented and livid. Instead of taking tangible steps like bringing about effective police reforms, bringing into place the Citizen Intelligence Network (CIN) a proposal to make ordinary citizens part of the intelligence gathering process [Refer to the TOI story ] and speeding up the hearing of such cases and ensuring that appropriate, effective and prompt punishment is meted out to the perpetrators, the government is sitting on its backsides banking on the ‘short lived memories’ of citizens and feeling comfortable in making statements like Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram made about there being no intelligence input about the Mumbai blasts but conversely adding that it was not an intelligence failure. Then whose failure was it Sir? The man who lost his livelihood thanks to his shop at Zaveri bazaar being reduced to smithereens due to the blasts, or the child who failed to foresee that he would lose his father if he went out to buy flowers at Kabootarkhana that evening, or then the woman waiting for a bus at Opera House to go back home after a long, hard day of work who is now battling for her life in the hospital?

And while, politicians scramble to cash in on the anger, resentment and outrage among the citizens trying to instigate communal passions (such as Janata Party President Subramanium Swamy did through his piece published by DNA on Saturday on ‘How To Wipe out Islamic Terror’) by suggesting stupid, ridiculous and contemptible solutions as this ‘gentleman’ did, what we need is to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to such people and concentrate on forcing the government to take suitable measures to deal with the issue of terrorism and not use it as another ploy to build vote banks and seize power. The unrest among people after 26/11 spun the authorities into action but soon, the simmering anger cooled down and people settled back into their monotonous existence, and so Kasab is still around and justice has yet not been delivered. We need to continue with the pressure and only then can we expect results. Otherwise, we can submit ourselves to the idea that this will continue to happen.