THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY DIGVIJAY KUMAR A STUDENT OF NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY DELHI
Discrimination based on identity (caste and religion) have been a global problem. However, this article focuses primarily on the discrimination based on caste in India. In ancient days, people belonging to a certain caste were considered as untouchable. They were not allowed to participate in any social event, not allowed to enter temple and were considered as inferior. However, in the present scenario this has taken a different shape. In the present scenario, economic condition and reservation policy seems to be the main contributory factor of caste based discrimination in India. This article highlights how the reservation policy and governments failure in uplifting the economic condition of the oppressed people, is holding the practice of caste discrimination in India. In essence this article highlights how less emphasis on governance and access to justice, is strongly holding the caste discrimination in India. There is wrong conception in the society that the traditional form of caste based discrimination still exist. So in that sense it becomes necessary to highlight the changed form of discrimination in the society.
Caste is a very complex institution which is deeply rooted in Indian society. There exist a hierarchy in the caste structure. The lower caste people were always exploited by the upper caste people. So when India gained independence, the reservation policy was framed to uplift the condition of the oppressed lower caste people especially the people belonging to the schedule caste and schedule tribe community. However, it seems paradoxical in the sense that in present scenario reservation seems to be the main cause of discrimination based on caste especially on campuses.
The practice of caste based discrimination was very prevalent at the time of Independence. After independence, reservation for a short period of time was given to SC and ST to uplift their economic condition. Later on several legislation like Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act were passed to eliminate the caste based discriminatory practices and bring social equality. The legislation have been successful in controlling the exploitation against the SC’s and ST’s and in bringing social equality. It has managed to control untouchability and other discriminatory practices. However reservation have been a great failure in uplifting the economic condition of the SC’s and ST’s.
There exist a hierarchy in the SC’s and ST’s community. Most of them have a very weak economic condition. However there are a handful of them who are well off. Historically it has been seen that rich lower caste people have adopted the practice and rituals of upper caste. In other words they managed to surpass the caste barrier. So this indicate the existence of class as the new caste. Therefore improving the economic condition and bringing such people in the main stream of the society will definitely help in eliminating discrimination from the society. But the government has failed at this front very badly. This can be inferred from the fact that even after decades of independence, majority of the SC’s and ST’s economic condition are still very critical.
In the present scenario, reservation have become a political tool to ensure vote bank. The political parties dangle the carrot of reservation to even more castes at the time of election. The political parties are more interested in retaining the caste based discrimination to use it as a tool to secure vote bank, than to eliminate it. This is really hazardous for the society. So India must transcend the politics based on identity and focus on developmental goal. Also, reservation provide an incentive for being a part of certain community. For instance those lower caste people who have changed their religion, have been deprived the benefits of the reservation policy. So, indirectly this seems to strengthen the caste system in the Indian society. At times the struggle to be recognized as low caste by certain community often leads to unrest in the society, Jat Revolution being one such example. Unless this attitude is eliminated, it’s impossible to eliminate caste based discrimination from the society.
Reservation policy was framed to uplift the economic condition of oppressed people. The reality is completely different. The majority of people belonging to the oppressed caste have a very weak economic condition. So, it’s for them to send their children to such a school which provide quality education. So when the children of these people go for higher education, they face a lot of problem because of the poor schooling. Majority of the drop outs from the prestigious institutes like IIT are those students who belong to the SC and ST community. Majority of the student who get poor grades in NLU’s are those who belong to the SC and ST community. Also, they find it difficult to get a job through placements. Most of them either end up being unemployed or get a very low salaried job. So this concept of reservation makes no sense in such a scenario. This highlights the fact that the reservation benefits only those who are well off and have a good schooling among the oppressed class. Also, reservation compromises with the quality, this frustrates the upper caste people. This result in their abnormal and unsocial behavior towards their low caste colleague. This happens mostly on campuses and at work place. In the present scenario this is the most prevalent form of caste based discrimination. The common form of this type of discrimination include, not having friendship with them, making filthy remarks, asking entrance ranks to embarrass them etc.
The reservation policy seems to be a scapegoat of the government to escape from its responsibility of providing quality elementary education to the oppressed caste. According to a report released by the National Institute for Educational Planning Administration (NIEPA) in 2005, 8.1% of primary schools in India have no classrooms, while 17.5% have only one teacher. In addition, 76.2% of schools do not have clean drinking water, while 14.6% lack electricity. Less than 4% of all primary schools have computer. Now in such a scenario where there is dearth of quality elementary education, reservation doesn’t seem to work. This clearly indicates the failure of the government in taking adequate step to improve the elementary education and hence the economic conditions of the oppressed people.
So there is lack of proper governance in framing proper policies to eliminate discrimination based on caste. This results in not ensuring justice to the oppressed people and peace in the society. Government have been at complete failure in ensuring a better economic condition to the oppressed people and reservation being its scape goat. As seen above, the form of caste discrimination have changed. The traditional form of discrimination does not exist nowadays. So the most important step to eliminate discrimination based on caste from the Indian society would be to ameliorate the economic condition of the SC’s and ST’s.
In a scenario of changed form of caste based discrimination, it seems more effective to improve the economic condition of the SC’s and ST’s to bring them to the main stream of the society to eliminate discrimination. To ameliorate the economic condition of these people, reservation does not seem to be effective or ideal measure. Although it has managed to improve the conditions of many such people, but it has primarily benefited the elite lower caste people only. With this policy, even the hundreds of year won’t suffice to eliminate discrimination from the society.
Therefore strong emphasis has to be given on the proper governance and framing of the proper policies and to the access of justice. The government need to frame adequate policy to ameliorate the economic condition of the oppressed people. Focusing on quality education would be more helpful in this endeavor. The government need to devote more percentage of GDP to provide quality education to the oppressed people. The government might collaborate with the private institutes to ensure quality education to such people. Various plans can be chock out by the government to create more employment opportunities for these people. Once the economic condition of such people is improved and quality elementary education is ensured to them, reservation would no longer be needed. Unless this happens discrimination based on caste will never cease to happen.
- Pradipta Chaudhury, India’s New Caste Politics, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/india-s-new-caste-politics
- Shashi Tharoor, How India’s Caste System Survives, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/india-caste-system-vemula-suicide-by-shashi-tharoor-2016-02
- Arindam Chaudhuri, India’s Illiterate revolution, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/india-s-illiterate-revolution
- Jeremy Sarkin, Mark Koening, Ending Caste Discrimination in India: Human Rights and the Responsibility to Protect Individuals and Groups from Discrimination at the Domestic and International Levels, http://www.heinonline.org
- Ajit Warrier, Reservation- How and Why?, http://www.heinonline.org
- Vivek Kumar, Discrimination on Campuses of Higher Learning, economic and political weekly
- Backward ho! , http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21693613-higher-castes-demanding-lower-status-make-mockery-positive-discrimination-backward-ho?frsc=dg%7Ca