Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The politics of 'quota'

(developed over the month of may)

I’m now in Udaipur and can see more protests happening round the clock across the entire nation. Different items of shocking news are being floated from different directions. Supposedly, 94 medical students have collapsed after a hunger strike in Delhi. Word is being spread that one AIIMS student has died due to the same reasons. There have been clashes between the pro and anti reservation youth. Violence seems imminent at times but has so far been under control.

Looking for Arjun Singh’s purpose beyond vote banks, the last thing I read gave me new ideas. It’s being said that 300 of the LS MPs are from the OBC and Arjun Singh wants to please them in order to pave his own way to become the prime minister. This does seem somewhat far fetched. But then, whatever it might be, Arjun Singh is not doing it to uplift the backward classes. This man has no idea about how well or ill represented these classes are. Amusingly, in spite of being the HRD minister, he is not sufficiently knowledgeable or informed about any statistics on the status of OBCs in India.

What’s altogether scary about this issue is it’s creating rifts in the society between the reserved and the unreserved categories. Intentionally or otherwise, there’s been apparent ridicule of the reserved categories, repeatedly pointing to the lack of meritorious students among those categories. So, though as a normal student, I have nothing against any caste or class, when I feel injustice is happening, and I end up having hard feelings for the people who’re getting it easy and when I stand up in protest to say anything against reservations, they’d take it to mean that I’m taking a stand against them. So in all misinterpretation and perceptions, a sense of antagonism starts to prevail between the people on the two sides of the reservation line. Now, if this antagonism manifests itself in the form of violent conflicts of the youth with the youth, who stands to lose and who stands to win?

The politicians are not going to do anything better than adding more fuel to the fire and they would very well gain from the situation by appeasing their vote banks. After all, had there been no protests, the OBCs themselves wouldn’t have considered the reservations as such a massive gift. Now that the UPA has had to face such an opposition from all fronts, they can happily claim their adherence to the misconstrued goal of uplifting the weaker sections of the society.

Some people asked me why the IITians didn’t come out so strongly against the reservations as the medicos did. Exploring this answer, I came to know that the medicos suffer at every stage because of the reserved category students having it easy! Be it the entry level or the examinations (when their godfathers in the higher echelons of power bail them out by intimidating their professors) or the post graduate or the specialization courses. An ex professor was hardly sympathetic for these so called weaker sections. They’re known to form gangs of their own and wield power in and outside the classrooms. Now, if they’ve been having it easy all this while, how would they let it slip out of their hands so easily!

It was delighting to see CNBC hosting a special on The Reservation Riddle inviting IIM professors to debate the issue and seek alternative solutions! Obviously, not much can come out when you have six points of view coming out in one single show, but it was at least a spectacle of a democratic process where diverse opinions are possible and respected. Though it was largely an Anti-Reservation group, the JNU and IIM Kolkata people did mark their stand for reservations. The debate however completely excluded the point of view of medical students and the pertinent point that the reservations should be allowed repeatedly to the same person at different stages.

Someone presented the idea that the OBCs already form over 20% in educational institutes, then why this reservation? Amusing, conflicting pieces of information! I’ll probably end up losing my head over it if I continue thinking about it! Guess more will come out if I sit down in discussion with diverse people and then try to work out an opinion of my own!

Anyway, looking at the newspapers and the TV it appears that the mandal redux generated a lot of heat at its peak, but apparently the temperatures are cooling down and the life’s going to get back to normal! People will learn to live with it! The strikes have been called off, the supreme court intervened, the doctors went back to work, the media has been busy with covering Rahul Mahajan’s cocaine escapades! The revolution seems to be getting lost in the middle of several vested interests. Rightly said, public memory is too short to carry forward a revolution of a large scale with sufficient momentum!

Does anyone really care? And even if someone does care, is he capable of doing something?

I hear the supreme court is yet to give its ideas to the bill and it would be tabled again in the parliament in the monsoon session. Lots of people across the country are doing ‘sadbuddhi yajnas’ hoping that some sense would prevail and Arjun Singh would rise beyond his partisan politics and do justice to the merit of the several thousands of capable young people who do deserve to get into the so called prestigious institutes but are left out, in the process of so called advancement of the weaker sections of the society!