I remember 1991 for a lot of reasons, my parents marriage was disintegrating and because of the Mandal agitation. I might have only been in Class VI, but the implementation of the Mandal Commission report and the start of caste-based politics by the VP Singh government changed India forever (to be fair to the Nehru-Gandhi family of yore, they never indulged in this game). I remember that there was rioting near Chirag Delhi and AIIMS and shots were fired - well, school was shut. But mostly, I remember the Mandal agitation because the rioters busted all the windows on DTC buses and trust me travelling on a bus with no windows during the Delhi winter is not a very smart idea.
At the end of the day, Mandal never affected me on the job front, I never joined the government. Sure, thanks to Mandal, the number of seats for general category students at St Stephen's reduced even further, but I would have made the cut-off anyway. And until my second-year of college, I was hesitantly supportive of caste-based affirmative action. However, an incident with a fresher that year changed all that. 'Bogs' (which is the guy's real nickname) was a fresher who had joined SSC. He was the son of an IAS Officer, a rather senior one and had studied in one of Cal's best schools, heck, Bogs was a cheap version of Delhi's 'Baba Log'. Now, back in college we used to ask people how much they got in their boards - heck everybody had a distinction. But Bogs was very iffy answering, at which point of time, another friend threatened him and out popped the answer. Bogs had a respectable grade, but nowhere near SSC standards, and because we knew that the only sport he knew was pool, Bogs was either Christian (which he wasn't) or actually used the 'Chamar' certificate to gain admission.
I was horrified. Here was a guy who had the best of everything in life, he hadn't done particularly well in his exams because he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer (as we would later discover). It wasn't exactly fair that people like him were using the 'SC' certificate to get to places in life. I couldn't understand what had gone wrong with the system. As I dug deeper, it seemed that most SC/ST seats in SSC were also given on 'Papa' quota. And it wasn't just Stephen's which suffered from this ('Papa' quota got me into SSC as well, I'll admit that much) it was all sorts of organisations. The meritocratic system which symbolised India was being eaten from within by a not-so underprivileged section of society. The sons and daughters of Laloo and Mulayam were taking up the seats and no-body could stop it.
I might hold Nehru responsible for the Kashmir debacle and the 1962 drubbing by China, but Nehru wanted India to be a meritocratic society where caste and religion didn't matter. His daughter played the religion card and now his grand-daughter-in-law wants to kill the system once and for all by getting one of her acolytes to push through private-sector reservation.
Yes, you can argue that the private sector should not be protected from the upliftment of the downtrodden. But because this government has proven time and again that it is the worst government that India has had since 1977 and it has a collective IQ of 20 and because the greater Indian media is tripping over one another to garner the title of 'official government mouthpiece', (and Rajdeep is not doing a bad job towards making CNN-IBN just that) this is a hair-brained idea. An idea which is worse than the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (which is equally hair-brained). You see, what will a company like mine do to meet its quotas - they'll probably sack the peons and the clerks and hire quota people in those positions. Does the government really think that this scheme will create jobs? All that it will do is that it will drive a lot of people out of jobs, and will that really help anyone? Maybe Meira Kumar ought to take a Virar Fast sometime and ask people if they support this idea.
Just as India had begun to see some of its best and brightest starting to return, something like this can take the wind out of the economy and start another brain drain. Just like Nehru's mad socialist economic policies started the first.
PS : Read Arnab's post on the issue. But I disagree on the Paswan rocks front!