Curse of reservations

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When merit is killed, corruption is born. Where else could it be more perceptible than in Jammu and Kashmir? The list of the reserved categories stretches day by day and more and more areas and people are brought under the benign shadow of ‘special categories’ at the expense of those who really deserve what is being offered and made available only to a small portion of population. As if the damage that has already been done by the reservations is not enough, the Sikhs of Kashmir and Kashmiri migrant Pandits too are demanding reservations under one or the other garb – former seeking minority status within the state and the latter trying to make it a pre-condition for their return to the Valley.

From day-one the system of reservations has proved a big nuisance even though the measure was well-intentioned when it was conceived. In order to equip unprivileged classes for improvement in their lot, reservation, if anything, serves as a short-cut method. It may no doubt yield some results in terms of speedy development, self-sufficiency and self-reliance of underprivileged classes, but at the same, it also undercuts the chances of normal growth of those who do not belong to any of the “privileged categories”. In fact the experience also shows that only a small fraction of unprivileged people have benefited over the years while a huge lot continues to rot in the mess they were in 1947. A few communities and from among them also only a few families here and there have taken the advantage of reservations so much so that they have turned into officer-producing machines where the destiny of a child is decided even before its conception. Rest of the members of these communities, classes and areas have been suffering for they are being accused to have been covered under such and such reserved categories.

Most often the people who got benefited from being a subject of a special class, category or area leave their place of birth, even their class and community, thus defeating the purpose of the reservation completely and making enough strong the cause of those who have time and again been voicing concerns against this discrimination in a society that does not have big enough differences among its subjects. An example can be cited from a categorically backward village of Anantnag where a mother of four doctor sons is almost begging for treatment of her ailments from other medicos as her sons have not only shunned their mother but also the state as well, and are minting dollars in the USA.

One can cite numerous such examples wherein the ghost of reservation has crossed its boundaries and is taking away the share of those unfortunate souls who find themselves as being “officially” forward section of the society even if they starve after getting degrees from prestigious universities and institutes. Even if the motive of the government is to provide employment opportunities to these unprivileged people, they must employ them in jobs where physical strength is the required qualification. Logically and realistically speaking, how can a person who otherwise could not have found his/her place in the list of selected officers deliver as much as of that candidate who scored high but reservation bar prevented his/her selection?

Nobody is against the progress and development of any particular class or community of people. But doing so at the back of reservations is not fair, at least not to those who do not have the privilege of falling under any reserved category in terms of ethnicity, social standing or geography. Indeed this system is sowing the seeds of a much bigger social strife and discomfort – which clearly outweighs any and all the benefits of this practice. Even as doing away with the system of reservations may not be an easy decision for any government, but then something needs to be done for sure, because the status quo is hurting a huge chunk of people by confusing their basic needs, which is a sure recipe for disaster. To begin with, the minimum that could be done is to rationalize the system so much so that its benefits are available to a person only once, instead of the current practice wherein a person avails benefits at each and every stage of his/her career, and then also passes on this privilege to his/her progeny, who repeat the same cycle on and on forever.

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