Recently, we had a beautiful Saturday Sidebar question from our Sidebar editor Eva Fannon, titled, ‘I have a dream’. This is my longer answer to that question:
If you do not have a prior knowledge of the caste system, briefly it is like this – there is the concept of a higher (or forward or upper) caste of people comprising of Brahmins and such. The lower (or backward) caste comprises of Dalits and such. The lower castes were economically, educationally and socially underprivileged. And so the Indian government created laws, sixty years ago, which alloted a percentage of college seats and jobs for them so that their standard of living could improve. With that background, now you may read on…
Any Indian, who has been a victim of the caste system, could write volumes about it, but I will restrict myself to giving you just one link here for now to understand this better. It is called Reservation system based on caste. Someone unfamiliar with the caste system would be appalled reading just the first few lines of this wiki entry. But this general wiki link is the most muted version of the actual reality.
Reservations in educational institutions and government jobs for the so-called “underprivileged” do not happen the way they were intended to some sixty years ago, before Indian Independence. Uplifting the social and educational status of people should be the goal of such reservation systems, and it should be based on their financial and economic background rather than on the caste system.
Imagine, there is a law, which actually allows my own classmate–whose father could be my father’s colleague–to get admission into an engineering institution just because he was born into a “backward caste.” You could ignore the fact that one’s parents are wealthy. You could ignore the fact that one’s parents may both be highly educated. You could also ignore the fact that someone else with higher grades might not get the seat because he was born in a “forward caste.” Oh, and did I mention that people born as Christians or Muslims also get a percentage of reservations in government jobs?
I am not here to say what is right or wrong, and I also am not questioning the law. I just feel that people should be judged by what they are and what they are capable of. The reason such laws could have come into existence more than half-a-century ago might be different but times are now different. Equality of all human beings is more the need of the hour.
So, where do I stand? I won’t disclose into which caste I was born into, but I will say that I would like my child to be judged by his grades, not his caste. I would like him to be judged by what he is capable of and not by which community he was born into and, of course, his own intellectual acumen, mental stamina and goodness of heart. Some schools in India don’t let you fill in the details concerning your caste but, when applying for government jobs, you are forced to fill it out, otherwise your application gets rejected.
My husband broke the system in his own personal way. He got a national rank which enabled him to choose whatever path he wanted in whichever institute he wanted. He is of the very few whose IQ permits them to be nonchalant about such things. But his parents were not wealthy.
I do not even want to imagine what would have happened if he was merely an above average student with a normal life. Where would he be now? ‘Nowhere’ is the answer.
He would not have reached his dreams of being a physician. Medical college did you say? Do you know how much a medical college admission costs if you are born into a forward class with just decent grades? 45 lakh rupees says this legitimate news link. It converts to approximately US$90,000. This is just the admission fees, excluding tuition and dorm fees.
As for me, I am not super intelligent. I was more a princess to my father, a pet to my teachers, a best friend to all the girls in my class, and a favourite for Lady Luck to smile upon. I have been lucky with everything in my life. The only reason I didn’t get victimized was out of pure luck. But a lot of my close friends were not so lucky; their dreams shattered when they had to enter college. Affluent people with lesser grades got admissions just because they belonged to lower castes.
Reservation system is not an answer for social inequality. Perhaps it could have been a stepping stone sixty years ago, but now we need to understand the past, present and analyse the future demands.
Reservation is an antithesis to democracy.
This type of reservation can not improve development of the nation. It will only lead to more corruption, more negativity and bitterness to budding adults at the tender ages of nineteen and twenty. And need I really remind anyone how poverty, economic and financial instability, is not an issue only of the backward castes? It is actually present in the forward caste as well. There is government data which you can read here as a wiki entry. (Check the above image 2 of this post.)
India is the largest democracy in the world and shouldn’t the spirit of democracy be retained?
Returning to my perspective as a mother, I cannot say how my son’s life will turn out, but in twelve years he will be ready to get admitted to college. I want him to grow up in an environment where there are equal opportunities. For now, the scenario looks like it needs a massive paradigm shift in the minds of the government, politicians and general populace in order for equality to get reinstated.
Please, people, think beyond gender, caste, community, religion. Think about being united as a single community of PEOPLE!
I pray to God that my son leads a happy, peaceful, successful and grace filled life.
Please share the criteria for gaining admittance to educational institutions in your country. Are there any quota systems for getting government jobs? In view of such things, how would you train your child(ren) to cope with such future situations?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The Alchemist, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.