The first question is: – how difficult it is for a poor person to stop being poor in India?
A poor person finds it very difficult, at least in India today, to have a worthwhile education. Near invariably, the only option that a poor person has is to take up manual jobs. Manual jobs are not likely to change things much; – for the poor have been doing manual jobs in the past, which has continued to the present.
It is only when a poor is exceptionally gifted and works hard; then with some good luck, the poor is able to climb out of the swamps of poverty. But such coincidence of exceptional talent, hard work and good luck is again quite exceptional.
Thus a minuscule percentage of the population of the poor is able to break out from the shackles of poverty. This has been for ages in India and this is what it still remains so.
Or in other words, an overwhelming majority of those who are poor today in India are not only just poor; but arising out of that, have also been deprived of share in governance in the past as also in the present.
Pausing for a moment; we take up the second question; namely, – what is the foremost task or responsibility of the government in India today?
No doubt that the foremost task and responsibility of the government in India today is to eradicate poverty.
Poverty is the greatest evil, sorriest sight and the gravest tragedy that can befall upon a human being as it deprives him or her not only of all the potential that should go along with a human life for its normal fulfilment and betterment; but also, far more tragically, subjects him or her to the gravest of sorrows and miseries on account of lack of medication and other basic facilities that could have saved the lives of his/her near and dear ones.
Now if the foremost task and responsibility of the government is to eradicate poverty and if the overwhelming portion of those who are poor today have also been poor for ages, thus deprived of share in governance in past and in present; then the best criteria for reservation stands to be that of poverty and poverty alone.
Reservation in government jobs – along with reservation in sufficient proportion with proper implementation in the schools and educational institutions – for the poor would be in line with the foremost task and responsibility of the government towards eradication of poverty by helping facilitate the poor to climb out of the swamps of poverty through such facilities and assistance; and would also allow the overwhelming portion of the sections deprived from share in governance from finding some such share; in as much as the overwhelming majority of the poor today, as seen above, have been deprived of share in governance in the past and in the present.
The resources of the state are not unlimited. They are limited. They therefore are to be utilised in the optimal manner. Reservation in government jobs is a resource available with the state. If reservations are made on the basis of poverty alone; it more efficiently helps achieve the foremost task of the government of eradication of poverty and also provides share in governance to the largest single class deprived of the same; – fulfilling the claims of those who seek reservation in the name of share in governance.
Then why shouldn’t reservation be on the basis of poverty alone? In fact, if we go a bit deeper; the argument that reservations should be on the basis of poverty alone gets even further strengthened.
In this context, let us take up the third question; namely – who governs today in India?
Is it the peon working in a government office who governs? Is it the clerk in the Secretariat who governs? Is it the IPS, or the IAS or the IFS officer who governs? Or is it the nexus of the rich-super rich-politician-criminal which governs?
There’s absolutely no doubt – and few shall dispute it – that dominant governance in India today is in the hands of the rich-super rich-politician-criminal nexus and if a public servant happens to be a part of that nexus; then he may well be in a position to govern even if he is a peon or a clerk, but not much otherwise, even if he happens to be an IAS or IFS officer.
Public servants of even the highest positions and ranks, if they by dint of their official activities start denting the power nexus of the rich-super rich-politician-criminal; then the chances of their wings getting clipped stand to be just about near imminent; if the transfer, postings and appointments of top civil servants in much of the government activities is to be seen and witnessed.
This proposition, therefore, that share in public jobs gives a share in governance is just a cliché with not much reality attached to it; unless until the public servant in question happens to be a part of the power nexus of money-politics-crime. All the more, therefore, important is that the limited resources of the state, including such as are open by way of reservation in public jobs, be made on the criteria of poverty alone as that enables the greatest evil of poverty to be tackled more efficiently than any other criteria.
However, even if assuming that appointment in public jobs gives a share in governance; even on that basis, as seen, poverty alone is the most efficient criteria for reservation as it enables the tackling of the foremost task that stands to be the eradication of poverty and also enables share in governance on part of by far the largest single class – consisting of the poor – entitled to the same, who have been deprived of it for centuries as also in the present.
A person who is entitled today for reservation on the basis of his or her caste and is not poor otherwise; at least, generally speaking, stands to be in possession of the means required to attain a government job. When contrasted with the case of a poor who doesn’t even have the means required to attain a government job and who also stands to have been deprived of share in governance in the past and in the present; it is easy to see that it is the case of the poor which is more deserving for reservation by way of being more in need for state assistance on all counts; whether it be on the basis of deprivation of share in governance or eradication of poverty.
On all counts and arguments, therefore, the most efficient and the most deserving and required criteria for reservation in government jobs stands to be that of poverty and poverty alone. In fact by neglecting the criteria of poverty and instead making caste the criteria for reservation; what transpires is not only the neglect of the most efficient and deserving criteria of poverty for the same; but also, in the process, gets the State to be the biggest perpetrator of inequality and injustice in India by perpetuating and strengthening the caste system. The caste system wreaks havoc to justice by the subjugation, the degradation and the humiliation that it attempts and – quite often – succeeds in creating by the name and brand of different castes.
When poverty by all counts and arguments stands to be the most efficient basis for reservation in government jobs and when the caste system needs to be eliminated given its atrocious working of injustice, degradation and humiliation; it defies comprehension how caste can be the basis of reservation in government jobs.
Caste as the basis for reservation in government jobs has to be done away with as quickly as possible. If towards that, law has to be changed; then such changes should also take place as quickly as possible and poverty alone should be made the criteria and the only “caste” entitled for reservation in government jobs with accompanying suitable reservation in education.
By Sanjay Kumar Singh at indiaopines blog
The author blogs here