Within this ambit of the constitution that reservation on the basis of caste has been propagated. Reservation is among a host of policies aimed at ensuring Social Justice, Equality of resources and Equality of opportunity. The actual evil of the caste system has two facets – one is the real inequity in the distribution of resources, while the other is the active discrimination of the backward classes, which constrains them, and denies them fundamental rights and equality of opportunity. India needed reservation after independence, but with the Mandal Commission proposal further extending reservations, some believe our society is more deeply divided now. The commission quotes lack of economic or institutional capacity for undertaking a grassroots based solution to the problem of caste, and calls reservations the only practical solution for social anti-discrimination. However, increasingly large numbers are identifying themselves with their caste and, in its attempt to erase distinctions, reservation system has actually reinforced the lines drawn by caste. The reservation policy enjoys significant constitutional validity and, it is now difficult imagine a voluntary role-back of the scheme in the near future.
Today, the various problems faced by general category candidates are well-voiced in Media. But, it is argued that without the masses being at the same level, merit is immaterial i.e., meritocracy is meaningless without equality. The focus, as Sen argues, should be on equalising people’s capabilities. With affirmative action, the state attempts to give proficiency, and a kick-start, to under-privileged masses.
Ironically, reserved categories themselves have a great deal of vested interest in keeping the caste system vibrant and alive now, because reservations are only given on the basis of caste assuming it to be a strong proxy for economic deprivation. However, a large share of pie has been cornered by the ‘creamy layer’ third generation beneficiaries, who are neither discriminated against, nor are socially and educationally backward anymore. They are no longer victims of caste prejudice or financially weak.
Sadly, many who tasted the fruit of reservation have done nothing to improve the condition of their fellow members of caste.Furthermore, the ‘creamy layer’ clause in the reservation policy, made with the aim of preventing the more economically privileged among the backward classes from dominating the reserved categories, has become a great financial and administrative burden for the government. Also, it has simply added to the burden of the oppressed, as processes have become more extortion and corruption based, than being based on true public service, as the clause is not rigorously enforced.
In India a popular quip regarding election is, “you don’t cast your vote, you vote your caste!” What Mandal engineered was a sharp rise in OBC assertiveness in the Hindi heartland. In the last two decades, caste-based politics has concentrated only on gaining power of the state resources instead of acting as a medium of genuine social transformation. Politicians have been forced to make the backward castes a priority if they harbor any desires of power7.The fact that parties like Rashtriya Janta Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party have gained power of the state, in itself, is a huge achievement. What their leaders have delivered is for an entirely different discussion, but at least it has given the under privileged a sense of confidence and be a source of social transformation, by opening up the political arena for the youth8. It is also this concentration on caste that the new wave of identity based politics came into mainstream Indian politics – the politics of equality revolving around the axis of caste – attracting millions of illiterate voters with false hopes and promises.
Where had the efforts of Naryana Guru in Kerala, Phule in Maharashtra and Ambedkar, as a godfather of underprivileged, gone wrong? What started as a revolutionary movement has now taken a shape of Anti-Upper class protests. What was initiated by our constitution makers as an Affirmative Action entered