Revisiting reservations

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It`™s been nearly seven decades after a bulwark of social safety nets known as `reservations` were set aside in the form of quotas for those sections of the society which had long been oppressed with noble intentions of rectifying historical wrongs against them and to provide them with opportunities for bettering their lives and to make them more socially included.

Within the narrow confines of the State, those once oppressed sections have long ceased to be oppressed and now have transformed into thriving and powerful groups which are extremely politically aware and capable of dictating terms to a majority which remain so only on paper. The political clout that the prosperous and powerful middle classes of these groups wield is beyond compare and far exceeds those enjoyed by other once oppressed groups anywhere in the world. To cite as an example, we have had two Chief Ministers who belonged to these supposedly impuissant and backward groups long before Barack Obama was elected as the President of the United States of America.

Reservations may or may not have brought social equality in our State but it is distressing to know that some sections among the majority are now demanding a Schedule Tribe status for availing and enjoying the benefits of quotas that such a status entails. Such retrofitted demands suggest a regressive development and runs counter to the very idea of reservations as envisioned by the framers of the Indian Constitution.

It is pertinent here to mention how reservations which are known by a different name in North America are viewed by many leading and influential Afro-American intellectuals. Blacks are among beneficiaries of a quota system known as affirmative action in the United States. Many black intellectuals are the fiercest critics of affirmative action which they consider as not only extremely limiting but as also putting a straitjacket to their abilities by creating a stereotype about them.

Glen Loury, a black economist who is among the most vocal opponents of affirmative action, has suggested that `the cushion of affirmative action tends to lead blacks to underperform` and that `policies intended to assure equality of achievement end up producing inequality of skills`. Besides, he has revealed in an important paper that mandatory preferences given to a group by impairing individual incentives to perform pose a risk of creating a stereotype about the group as underperformers.

Clarence Thomas, a black jurist in the apex court of the United States, has expressed his reservations about affirmative action on many occasions and has called it an insult to the abilities of blacks which acts as a hindrance without giving them the option of being viewed as having risen on account of their own merits. Such rebellion against quotas for blacks by people who qualify as beneficiaries of such quotas predates the election of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States.

Coming back into the developments in the State, what we are witnessing today is not progress but a battle for going backward, or regression. We can only hope that soon we get to come across rebels among the beneficiaries of the quota system who believe in meritocracy and are of the opinion that true progress lies in achieving on their own merit and industry rather than by being belligerent quota enthusiasts who believe in perpetuating the quota system for eternity.

Leader Writer: Svoboda Kangleicha

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