Sigh, everyday I get SMSes from both sides of the campaign urging me to forward their messages to all and sundry. I don't understand the logic of how expatriating my money to Hong Kong (via Hutch) will help either cause. Weirdly enough, after having some very interesting conversations with some of my friends, and missed those 'interesting' conversations in between all the parties and the work, certain things are a bit clearer to me.
I'm not doing a volte-face and claiming that reservations are the cure for all ills - my argument is as follows. I do not disagree with the concept of reservations for people who have historically been downtrodden. But, I disagree with the quantum being suggested by the senile Arjun Singh. Secondly, more aggressive land reform West Bengal style is the best way forward. In 1977, many upper castes protested at the concept of land reform in Bengal, but today it is land reform that Jyoti Basu carried out which will ensure that defeating the communists in rural Bengal is going to be near impossible. And weirdly enough, you will not find a single upper-caste Brahmin or Kayastha Bengali who argues against what was done - sure, you'ld find a Talukdar or a Majumdar here or there who disagrees, but few and far between.
Unfortunately, carrying out land reform is something that the Raja's (and their playboy grandsons) will never carry out. If Arjun Singh's heart REALLY bled for the downtrodden, he should give all his lands away, the lands that have been acquired through years of ruling these downtrodden people. However, a party that is full of Raja's and Rani's will never do that, so they do the next best thing - educational reservation and reservation in the government jobs sector.
Sadly, this only has a very limited impact. It has facilitated in the creation of a Dalit middle class some argue, fair enough, much like affirmative action has created a Black middle class in the US and South Africa, but how many people? The problem is once these 'downtrodden' join the middle class and become upwardly mobile they become as consumerist as you and me, doesn't really help the widows of the farmers in Vidarbha or the landless labourer in Maharajganj does it?
Also, I have always posed one question to all proponents of reservation - or least the guys arguing for the high amount of reservation - the failure rate. Why is there all this talk of increasing seats, because there is a tacit understanding that high reservations lead to a very high failure rate among students who made it through this way. I'm not implying all of them will fail, but a fair number will, so instead of 100 doctors, we end up producing 90. If the new act goes through we might produce just 80. Of course, its not that Arjun Singh will suddenly institute a couple of new IIT's and IIM's and a fair number of REC's and ITI's will he?
I should ask GBO to file an RTI application to the ministry of HRD asking for the failure rate among students who made it via reservations. I'm asking what is the point of reservation in higher education, if the darned secondary and primary systems are so messed up, because no-one wants to teach in some god forsaken poor village, but even if some money was invested into village schools poor landless farmers have no options for their children. They might migrate to a city and the kids drop out altogether. Maybe, just maybe, if they had some land of their own, they would stay back and their kids might go to school and learn something - then maybe take advatage of the seats reserved for him in some medical school and hopefully return to his village because he would have something to return to.
But why do they do that? Because they have no hope in their villages. Why? Because there is no land reform. Y'know most of the Bengali migrants you see on the roadsides in the cities are very rarely from villages in West Bengal, they're Bangladeshi refugees. Why, you ask? The villagers - SC/ST/OBC - whatever, even poor upper castes - have land. The Commies might have screwed up indutry in Bengal (until now) and the education system to boot, but they got land reform right.
Y'know something, its not half-hearted efforts to give seats in colleges that will help get you votes, but land reform. And that, the Congress is never going to do with the current dispensation in power. No Land reform = No Equality. Ever. No matter what we do with education. Maybe my argument sounds very juvenile and simplistic, but I really think if we have to start this virtous cycle we have to have land reform, and I'm very sure all those kids taking out candle-lit marches to hither-tither and the Narayana Murthy's of the world will not disagree with me.
Raja saab, aap sun rahe ho, kya?