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Double standards on reservations

By on Jul 12, 2009 in Food For Thought, Stop The Press | 9 comments

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Originally posted at Youthpad.

An editorial by Vir Sanghvi in today’s Hindustan Times caught my attention today. Ties in nicely with the theme of discussions happening earlier on Indians being to sensitive and demanding apologies for everything. The premise of the editorial is that Indian ‘liberals’ indulge in double standards when it comes to many things

Sangvhi points out that while liberals might object to MF Hussain paintings being banned, they adopt a completely different tune when it comes to issues like the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Suddenly it’s no longer kosher to go against standard religious norms just because the religion being dealt with is Islam. (I’ve already stated earlier that I believe “Either everything is open to be made fun of, or nothing is.”)

More than that, he points out how almost every ‘liberal’ is against reservations on the basis of caste for SC / ST / OBC, but when it comes to the Women’s Reservation Bill everyone forgets about the whole ‘merit over social factor’ argument and supports the Bill. (In case you didn’t know, the Women’s Reservation Bill proposes that one-third of seats in the Parliament be set aside exclusively for women.) Here’s what Vir Sanghvi says:

Let’s take the case of reservation. By now, it should be clear that most liberals oppose an extension of reservation. It’s not that we are against lower castes, we say, it is that we are for the principle of merit. Once you start reserving seats in Parliament or in engineering colleges, for so-called disadvantaged minorities, you destroy the basis of any system based on elections or merit.

Except, of course, that all these reasoned views are tossed out of the window when it comes to women’s reservation. Then, the very same arguments that we dismiss when they are used on behalf of Muslims, Yadavs and the like, are recycled on behalf of women.

It gets worse. When the likes of Sharad Yadav and Uma Bharti say they will oppose the Women’s Reservation Bill, unless it creates a separate category of reservations for lower castes, this is dismissed as shameful casteism.

This is really something we must give thought to. He does mention that the double standard is probably not borne out of casteism but because people haven’t thought through properly on what principles they stand for. I admit, neither have I. Till this point I had no opinion on the Women’s Reservation Bill – no stand either for or against. Mostly because it’s something which crops up in every Parliament session over the past decade, makes no headway and dies on the front page side column news as a small footnote. I do realize that what Sanghvi is saying is very true. Editorials in his own newspaper have opposed caste reservations while supporting women’s reservations.

I am against special concessions for women in workplaces or laws open to misuse (and discriminatory towards men) such as Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The editorial convinced me that the Women’s Reservation Bill is something all of us should be worred about – and oppose. There should be absolutely no room for doubt that merit, merit and only merit should be the criteria whether it be for colleges seats or Parliament seats.

While liberals might have double standards on this (and other issues), it also shows that our parliamentarians have double standards (surprise!). Practically it’s just vote-bank politics at play since ‘caste’ relations are much stronger in the hinterland than any mileage they can gain out of reserving seats for women. Our parliamentarians were right in opposing it, for the wrong reasons though.

Issues such as caste reservations and women rights are terribly controversial issues. You’ll get away with lesser stings if you stirred a hornet’s nest instead. Liberals do need to collectively get the story straight though on what principles they actually support.



9 Comments

  1. You, sir, have got to travel in a bus someday to see how badly we educated people treat women. I can take a 10 minute nap on the way to college, but women – they can never do that. I used to be upset seeing seats reserved for women in such buses. But I’ve learned that they need them more than I do. Unfortunately, women are treated this way even at work. They need to be watchful at all times.

    And if reservations can make women feel a little safer, then it would be something I’d support. Of course, not all women need these reservations and concessions. But how do you keep check? You’ve obviously heard about people faking caste certificates to try their luck at good colleges and universities. That is, there are always people trying to get around rules and regulations. I just ignore such people. They’re not worth talking to or maintaining any relations with. So why bother thinking about them?

    • Parth

      July 12, 2009

      Post a Reply

      Poltical reservation wont give power to the women.It will end up with strongmen nominating their wives daughters etc

      • Ankur

        July 12, 2009

        Valid point. The Lalu Prasads of the politics will push forward their Rabri Devis to rule by proxy. Even then, if the principle we choose to stand by is merit then this shouldn’t be passed.

    • Ankur

      July 13, 2009

      Post a Reply

      I have travelled by bus many times and I agree that both on buses and Metro behaviour of many people towards women can be less than desirable. I’ve also heard of fake caste certificates – a lot of work would go into that as they need to get matching academic records to their caste certificate. The point is that by singling out some community as ‘backward’ or perpetuating the notion that women are ‘weak’ starts working kinda like a perpetual motion machine. Instead of reservations the better thing to do would be to educate and sensitize people to these issues. That is striking at the root of the problem.

  2. Parth

    July 12, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Can i use ur this and national pastime of apologies blog on my facebook account with complete credit and ur URL

    • achyuth

      July 12, 2009

      Post a Reply

      thanx mate! i got the topic for my new blogpost. and btw, i am somewhat against ur views, but more on my blog.

    • Ankur

      July 12, 2009

      Post a Reply

      Sure! As long as you give credit, you can already do that without asking in accordance to the Creative Commons license I’m using for my blog content.

      • Parth

        July 13, 2009

        thnx i am a big fan of urs btw

      • Ankur

        July 13, 2009

        Thank you for the kind words. :)

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