Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Reservation - A helping hand for the under-privileged

Recently I saw a post in a forum, in which I am a member of, questioning the need for reservation policies and even the original need for reservation. I was not very much surprised about the discussion for I too used to think in similar lines when I was much younger.

When I was growing up my family had to go through troubled times when my father's chances of promotions were almost jeopardized because of some reservation policies. He was a rank holder in the PSC list and had every academic right to get to the top of his organization. He did get to the top ultimately though. I grew up among people, some of whom with reservation and some without. Financially there was not too much differences between the reserved and the non-reserved. In Kerala, or atleast in the schools where I studied, there was seemingly no factual evidence for proving the requirement for reservation. So the logical conclusion was that reservation is biased against quality and hence it would reduce the system quality in the long run.

But we cannot just look at the educated, empowered, urban population of India and claim that there is no requirement for reservation. Around 1/3 of the country still earns less than 50 rupees per day on an average. See the World Research Institute survey on people living on $1 a day. The highly educated and empowered section of the population would be less than 10% of the total population.

Until we have equitable distribution of education, health and employment opportunities - reservation IS THE ONLY WAY to have an all-round development of the society. Reservation is not a punishing rod for the privileged but rather it is a helping hand for the under-privileged. The only point that has to be noted is that the current policy of reservation based on caste or tribe is not delivering what the creators of the system intended it to deliver. This system is being promoted by politicians with vested interests for electoral gains. However the honorable supreme court has been trying to point the legislature in the right direction in excluding the creamy layer from the reserved categories.

The set of all people in the set of reserved categories would be a very good approximation for the set of the under-privileged people of India. The educated and empowered comprise only a very small percentage of the Indian population. Of this, the set of people who complain about reservation again comprises a much smaller percentage and their whines are based on their experiences with people of reserved categories who really should not have had any reservation based on economic criteria or possibly because of a lack of necessary skill sets required for their corresponding job positions. But this biased judgment would be based on a highly non-random sample from a very small set of the population.

Yes there is an argument against reservation in that it would reduce the total quality of the system. On an average a random person from the reserved categories should have similar capabilities as an average person from non-reserved categories. That is how statistics work. There is no reason to believe that the distribution of capabilities is not a normal distribution. However because of their different upbringing and educational opportunities they would have differences in the way they express their capabilities.

I am not claiming that reservation does not reduce the total quality of the system. It might, in the short term. This would be a small price we would be paying for the greater good of the people and an overall development of India. Additionally if we move the reservation policy based on an economic criteria we will be able to phase out the complete policy in about 50 years.

So the verdict is - Yes we need reservation, but probably on the basis of financial backgrounds.

1 comment:

  1. Good one!
    I agree, reservation is a necessity for a country like ours. It has it's flaws, but that's true of any system of such scale.