Casteism was and continues to be a vicious humanitarian problem in India.
Much of the privileges of the upper castes were a direct resultant of preventing competition from the dalits by means of ruthless repression.
In the machinations towards Independence, B. R Ambedkar and Rao Bahadur Rettamalle Srinivasan of Madras demanded a separate electorate for the Dalits so that they could reverse the most basic exigencies of casteism. M. K Gandhi opposed this demand and went on an hunger strike, as he believed that this would this demand would sound the death knell of hinduism
Due to the unprecedented public pressure and probable repercussions on the dalits B. R. Ambedkar relented. In exchange a system of seat reservations within the electorate was agreed upon.
“The Constitution of India states in article 16(4): “Nothing in [article 16] or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.” Article 46 of the Constitution states that “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
In 1982, the Constitution specified 15% and 7.5% of vacancies in public sector and government-aided educational institutes as a quota reserved for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the quota system would be reviewed. This period was routinely extended by the succeeding governments. The Supreme Court of India ruled that reservations could not exceed 50% (which it judged would violate equal access guaranteed by the Constitution) and put a cap on reservations.”
Further, despite 15% reservations being present in the IAS and IPS, only 5% from this group reach the upper echelons in both. Which is a pointer to the humungous casteist discrimination still present even in the so called creamy layer.
The highest number of dropouts are from these Dalit groups in rural schools. Which then skews enormously the participation of such groups in upstream educational opportunities.
The argument of some who claim to be equalist is one of merit. Claiming that affirmative action results in dilution of quality. They seem to forget the quality workmanship and skill of artisans of the past, whose works as seen in archaeological remnants, are glorified no end. One may note that these artisans constitute the lower castes, with leather workers – contributing extraordinary workmanship in leather exports – being amongst the lowest. One may further note that The oft touted India an ancient economic superpower” was based wholly on slave labour derived from casteism in agriculture, smithy, terracotta etc.
Had there not been 1500 years of horrific subjugation, these people would have been the tech leaders of the world. One need to merely look at tribal art form of the warlis near Mumbai to realise their extraordinary capabilities of perception and representation.
The argument of dilution is actually precisely the opposite of what the privileged ignorants want to make.
In educational institutions fostering a chilly climate and victim blaming are common practices indulged in by both faculty and students. It has led to numerous suicides of dalit students. Several cases are extremely glaring, yet the faculty involved in these acts continue to merrily operate in the very same positions.
Given the above facts what is needed is vigorous implementation of affirmative action and strengthening of mechanisms to prevent discrimination in educational institutions.
The only probable dilution would be in provisions of creamy layer being extended to educational reservations for 2nd generation descendents.
Ref: Beyond the Quest for Merit V/s Quota Suresh Babu Gs, Social Action a Quarterly Review of social trends Vol 57.
Article originally written By Mr. Jude Terrence Dsouza.