The Muted Spectators?


EDITOR: ADITYA PRAKASH


“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties” – John Milton

The liberty for free speech has become a nominal term in the recent Indian scenario. It has become a much debated term following incidents of attack on the writers, intellectuals and popular figures, which shows the weakening of the very basis of democratic society. Though freedom of speech is enshrined in the Indian constitution, the government seems to adopt an anti- liberal attitude which largely has blown the issue out of proportion.

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Kanhaiya Kumar at JNU. Source: Internet

The inability of the government to resolve the affair coupled with its blind nod to the “nationalistic” policy designed by Sangh Parivar have aggravated the crisis thus pushing the state of freedom of speech into an abyss. The current controversy concerning Jawaharlal Nehru University is yet another dereliction of government as it failed to properly address the matter in hand but instead chose to remain the stringent supporter of its youth wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

The term freedom of speech clearly states the power or right to express one’s opinion without censorship, restraint or legal penalty. The article 19 (1) (a) of Indian constitution ensures freedom of speech and expression as fundamental human right. But this freedom, as guaranteed in the constitution is not fully exercised as the sedition charge which dates back to colonial period acquires prime importance in the Indian Penal Code. But the law ensures that “words and speeches can be criminalized and punished only in situations where it is being used to incite mobs or crowds to violent action, mere words and phrases themselves, no matter how distasteful, don’t amount to a criminal offence unless this condition is met”. The crisis at JNU came into spotlight as this basic freedom of speech was violated at the very hands of the custodians of law.

The row on India’s premier institute began when Democratic Students Union (DSU) in JNU campus organized a cultural meeting of protest against what they called “the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat” and to lend hands for “ the struggle of Kasmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination” on 9th February 2016. The ABVP strongly protested against the event following which the permission given for meeting was retracted.As this action is the gross contravention of freedom of speech, All India Students Federation (AISF) under the leadership of Kanhaiya Kumar, Students Union President of JNU, affirmed their solidarity for the right of free speech. Meanwhile, manipulated versions of videos regarding Kahaiya’s speech went viral through Times Now and Zee News where Arnab Goswami and Sudhir Chaudhary played their role respectively in making “anti-nationals”. Following this, Kanhaiya Kumar and some of the students were arrested and charged under sedition based on the video clippings appeared in the aforementioned news channels. Recently, Delhi police appears to have no evidence against the accused and Kahaiya Kumar received a bail.

The whole issue regarding sedition charge triggered social media response and many contemned the government for its unnecessary indulgence in the educational institute which is well known for its liberal approach. Pratab Banu Mehta, political scientist observes that “some of the students may have been deeply misguided in the beliefs they hold. But a university is the space to debate them: yes, even the hanging of Afzal Guru”.

The usage of sedition charge against students who peacefully protested is a blatant violation of free speech. The tyrannical act of the government can no way be justified and this intolerance towards freedom of expression is the clear affirmation of the burial of “Right to Speak” under the puritanical mind set. But the massive outcry of the student communities all over India against the incident reinstate the fact that they are no longer muted spectators.


Unifying India’s Economy: GST


EDITOR: ADITYA PRAKASH


In 2000, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government set up an empowered committee, which was given the task of streamlining the GST (Goods and Services Tax) model to be adopted as well as putting in place the required backend infrastructure that would be needed for its implementation.

On 28 February 2006, P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, in his budget speech announced the target date for implementation of GST to be 1 April 2010 and formed another empowered committee of State Finance Ministers to design the roadmap. The committee submitted its report to the government in April 2008 and released its First Discussion Paper on GST in India in 2009. The UPA government in 2013 failed to win the support of BJP-ruled states forcing the legislation to lapse with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

In 2014, the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government, which stormed to power in May, began pushing the legislation through with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley by introducing the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19 December 2014 and passed by the House on 6 May 2015. In the Rajya Sabha, the bill was referred to a Select Committee on 14 May 2015. The Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha submitted its report on the bill on 22 July 2015. The Parliament had on August 8 passed the bill which was then circulated to state governments seeking its ratification.

A Constitution amendment bill needs to be ratified by the Legislative Assemblies of at least 50% of the states. The bill was sent to the President’s secretariat after as many as 17 states ratified the bill. The states which have passed the legislation include Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Haryana, Sikkim, Mizoram, Telangana, Goa, Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya. On 8th September 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee signed the government’s Goods and Services Tax Bill, which will usher in one tax regime for the entire country.

GST in Simple Term: When your Doctor says – to be healthy and for all your different diseases you have to eat only one medicine but it will be little costly and time-consuming. What will you do? I am sure all of you would choose to take one medicine instead of different medicines for other diseases because it will save your time and it will reduce your expenses. GST is that one medicine which will cure the disease of different taxes in India.

The GST is an indirect tax that brings most of the taxes imposed on goods, services, manufacture, sales and consumption of goods and services under its ambit into a single domain at the national level. It will change the taxation that is levied separately on goods and services and will introduce a consolidated tax based off a uniform rate on both goods and services and it is payable at the final point of consumption.

The benefits of GST after the implementation; India with a population of 1.32 billion will pay one tax instead of paying different taxes like; Service Tax, VAT, CST, SST, Excise Duty, Additional Duty of Custom, Entertainment Tax, Luxury Tax and overall GST will replace 17 indirect tax levies and compliance costs will fall. In the present scenario, Service Tax is 15%, Excise Duty is 12.5% and Vat 14.5% but now after GST applicability, it will be 18%.

The GST has been proposed to be kept between 18% and 20%. Since all products and services will have unified taxation, the products or services that a person could avail at lower tax rates will have 18-20% tax on the bill. GST will subsume most of the indirect taxes. The government has also assured states to compensate for 5 years in a case of revenue loss because of GST.

You must be thinking GST to be the only tax that we have to pay now. Technically there will be three type of Taxes under GST i.e. CGST (Central Goods and Service Tax), SGST (State Goods and Service Tax), and IGST (Integrated Goods and service Tax).

There is a prediction that after GST is implemented the country’s GDP might increase up to 1%–2%. GST will remove Tax Evasion and Multiple Taxations.

Overall, GST will boost the revenue. Less developed states will get aid. Logistics and inventory costs are likely to come down and in the result, manufactured goods will become cheaper. The state restrictions and levies have complicated doing business online so it will help in freeing up e-commerce. There is a long way to go and much work has to be done before the government’s April 1, 2017, deadline can be met.


Collaboration in Indian Ocean


EDITOR: HARSH SINGH


Soon after his election victory in early January last year, Sri Lankan President elect – Maithripala Sirisena released all Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody as a goodwill gesture, who were imprisoned in the first place because they were fishing in the waters of  the Palk Bay-the body of water that separates Sri Lanka from the southern tip of India and the sovereignty of which is yet to be established. Many saw this as a gesture on his part before his first foreign visit to India as the head of state, one which was to be closely watched by certain quarters for there was a lot he was to discuss and deliberate upon and the outcomes of which could have potential ramifications for the Indian Ocean region countries and maybe beyond.The visit was responded by a state visit of prime minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka a month later, the first ever by an India head of government since the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi by LTTE militants in 1987, marking a new high in bilateral ties.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) shakes hands with Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) shakes hands with Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Indo-Sri Lanka ties are old and illustrious, dating back to 4th century BC, with the introduction of Buddhism into Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka’s son – Mahinda. With Buddhism, ethnic and cultural ties being strong links, both nations were expected to be natural allies in the post-colonial era. It was anticipated that the legacy of colonialism would have tied them up in a bond of empathy fuelling collaboration for mutual prosperity. History had to run a different course, though. Today, from maritime security to trade routes, from ports to regional and internal security and from geopolitics to cultural ties, there’s simply a lot for the two States to work upon for any irritant to hinder collaboration as such, unless domestic economic and political compulsions align with the aspirations of a rising superpower, grasping at every opportunity to strengthen its long-term regional and strategic goals. The ever-rising and seemingly successful presence of China into a region which India has historically considered as its own backyard of influence has long discomforted India and is one of the reasons why the election victory of Sirisena was being hailed as a good omen in the Indian establishment after years long rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa, a demagogue and a long time China votary.

Sri Lanka makes for a perfect case study of China using loans and financial grants actively as tools of coercion, for exerting it’s influence and sealing its presence. The previous Sri Lanka Freedom Party regime indiscriminately allowed Chinese funding for strategic infrastructure projects and while China’s massive loans to Sri Lanka were often portrayed as a response to international economic pressures over concerns of human rights abuses for the nation with a tumultuous history of a civil war, these acted as de-facto handouts for Chinese companies, also ensuring that in near future Colombo is relegated to the whims of the Chinese establishment (ambitious geopolitical initiative like the String of Pearls for example), for Sri Lanka will be saddled with massive debts with higher than usual interest rates. Already the biggest lender, China has loaned to Sri Lanka more than $8 billion for various projects, pockets too deep for India to match and a fact clearly understood by the Indian establishment. Recent developments like that of  China seeking for its loan amounts to be converted into Sri Lankan infrastructural equities only reaffirm that what’s been speculated for long.

Contemporarily, concerns for security, regional stability, and restructuring of bilateral ties far outweigh any other concerns for India as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, and India has been deploying soft power along with emphatic diplomatic outreaches to further its interests and concerns, especially given the regime change in New Delhi, with a government with a clear majority taking charge of affairs and pursuing a foreign policy of its own without having to accommodate inputs of regional and domestic hawks.

With Sri Lanka, the Modi government has been linear and direct about its expectations and undertakings. On one hand, on the Tamil issue, the prime minister’s meeting with Tamil National Alliance leaders during his visit to the island nation in June; promising he would push for devolution and the implementation of the 13th Amendment for them besides visiting Jaffna and Talaimannar (the first ever visit by an Indian PM) as an affirmation of India’s special concern for the Tamil minorities and exhibiting its confidence on a full reconciliation process. On the other, NSA chief Ajit Doval had issued warnings to the Sri Lankan naval chief and former defence secretary over the docking of China’s submarines in Colombo harbor and India has been unambiguously and persistently voicing its concerns over instability in the larger Indian ocean region. The two countries however, have also made progress on the front of stalled negotiations over the CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), alongside increasing maritime defense cooperation and signing agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on civil nuclear energy, cultural issues, education, and agriculture.

Today, Sri Lanka seems more informed of India’s sensibilities and expectations pertaining to developments, both bilateral and in the region at large. Dialogues at global forums and steps like further devolution of autonomy to Tamil-majority regions in the north and east Sri Lankan regions suggest a much more egalitarian approach towards foreign relations and internal reconciliation, although Sirisena has been reluctant to burn any bridges with Beijing.

Sri Lanka is the largest and the most populous state in the Indian ocean region including the Maldives and Mauritius. Tangible Initiatives of Solid collaboration, be it the construction of a single track line between Colombo, Jaffna and Killinochchi by the Indian Railway Construction International Ltd or the Government of India’s initiative of developing a Buddhist Circuit linking pilgrimage sites, based on shared history, with upgraded infrastructural facilities, speak volumes of the potential to transcend all the conditionalities which characterize the conventional give-and-take in diplomacy. Consequential of India’s growing economic might and diplomatic heft and amid growing realisation in both the establishments of the futility of ambivalence, it’s hoped that ties between the two nations may evolve to be more meaningful and inclusive, and indeed become the defining partnership for the region at large.


Why Integration of SAARC is important?


THE EDITING STARTUP


South Asia is one of the most populous regions in the world boasting a population of 1.749 Billion. Most of the countries in the region are in various stages of economic development and aspire for regional economic integration.

Today, even the well-informed political observers have to admit that hardly anyone would cite SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, as a role model for regional cooperation when examining different forms of political or economic regional integration.

Such a discussion would first of all focus on the European Union, and ASEAN in South East Asia. SAARC seems to be overshadowed by these organizations and although this regional association is of many years’ standing, having existed for more than thirty years, can it be deemed to be successful? In the eyes of the world, it has enjoyed comparatively few real successes since it was founded in 1985. The Charter signed by the founders of SAARC (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) promises much and bears many similarities to the founding charters of the other regional associations mentioned above. But even regional observers have criticized SAARC for having good intentions but achieving fewer practical results.

Source: Reuters/Narendra Shrestha
Source: Reuters/Narendra Shrestha

India, the largest country in the region, has been predicted to become an important global economic player in the world by 2030. Pakistan, the second largest South Asian country does not enjoy a robust economy but has the potential to act as a bridge between the countries in the Gulf, China, India and Central Asia for regional economic integration.

The other modest countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, are today in a much more politically stable condition then they were a few years back, and therefore could both benefit and support a South Asian regional economic integration. Afghanistan could also benefit from such integration in the post-US withdrawal phase of its nation building efforts.

Since decades the issues of India-Pakistan has dominated the unproductive (or productive by SAARC’s standards) sessions. If Pakistan joins other SAARC countries to sign the Motor Vehicles Agreement and fully implements the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA), the subcontinent could see a revolution on the roads.

The possibility of trucks moving from Kabul to Kolkata and Chittagong, while Pakistan could if it chooses to offer access for Afghan trucks all the way to the Indian check posts at the Wagah-Attari border. Imagine dozens of trucks with food supply and medical aids for Nepal earthquake goes to Nepal from Kabul, Islamabad, Delhi, Thimphu and Dhaka by roads. While this may sound fantastic but the reality is that the only roadblocks to such a vision are political and can easily be adopted on the ground. It could fairly open up opportunities for India to Central Asia, and even as other countries in SAARC follow suit. Unfortunately, Pakistan has decided not to support the agreement during the SAARC summit held in Kathmandu in November 2014, on the ground that it needs more time to consult all its provinces.

On June 2015, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) signed the landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personnel, and Cargo Vehicular Traffic among the four South Asian neighbors in Thimphu, Bhutan. This major initiative between sub-grouping of four SAARC nations is expected to pave the way for a seamless mobility of people and goods across each other borders for the benefit and integration of the region, thereby pushing economic development in South Asia at large.

India only has bilateral motor vehicle agreements with Nepal and Bangladesh but a multilateral agreement would go a long way in boosting trade in the region. The agreement opens up the possibility of turning border roads into economic corridors which could increase inter-regional trade within South Asia by 60%.

India has tapped on its eastern neighbours and the framework of the new agreement was finalised in a meeting of the transport secretaries of the four countries at the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) — another grouping of south Asian countries which includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka — held in Kolkata in February 2015. Pakistan is not part of this grouping. SASEC was set up in 2001 to bring together these six countries to promote regional prosperity and boost trade by improving cross-border connectivity. If Pakistan persists in its obstructionist agenda, New Delhi is signaling it would find itself marginalized in the larger South Asian dynamic.

India is pursuing a similar framework between India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT), the Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) is almost ready and will be signed soon in order to get access to the larger ASEAN market through seamless passenger and cargo movement. The agreement was to be signed last year but it was delayed due to elections in Myanmar.

Image: South Asia’s total trade within the sub-region and with the world:

South Asia’s total trade within the subregion and with the world.
Source: Asia Regional Integration Center (ARIC) Integration Indicators Database. 

Asia has become the world’s most vibrant region because of its sustained economic growth over the last many decades. Maintaining this remarkable growth rate, however, requires market integration to ensure the free flow of goods, services, and capital across borders. Surely, the interplay of market forces and increased participation in the trade have been decisive in the growth of rising Asian economies. Until now, most of Asia’s final goods have been exported to Europe and the United States. Access to large markets allowed Asian countries to utilize their economies of scale on the one hand and encourage growth in their productive sectors on the other. With the rise of Asia, it is time for these countries to cooperate and become an integrated market of their own.


India After 70 Years


RAMYA SUNDARA RAMAN

India surely is a land of varied landscapes, cultures, practices, ideas, religion, language and lot more. It is an “All In One” country. But what is strikingly unpleasant about this wonderful country is the behaviour of its citizens towards each other. We’re yet to recognize each other as “Indians” instead of “South Indians” or “Bengalis” or “Punjabis” etc.

Being a South Indian in any Northern part of a country is not a very pleasant experience for someone who is not very experienced in conversing in Hindi. Not only are they always made fun of for their accent, but also their dressing sense, food habits, general demeanour etc.

Same is the experience for a North Indian in any Southern State. They can’t understand a single word of what people are saying and no one generally interacts with him/her initially.

Similar discrimination is faced by people from North Eastern States who are often ridiculed for their Mongolian features. Not to mention the countless “Sardar” and “Gujju” jokes that people shamelessly circulate and enjoy. If we, as Indians disrespect our own people like this, we shouldn’t expect people from outside to respect us.

So the question is, are we really independent after all these years? Do we really accept each other as we are?

Does our cultural diversification unite us? Every state has some good thing or other to offer. Every human being is unique. Stereotyping them on the basis of their language, religion, place of birth etc., doesn’t show signs of a developing country, or a developing mindset.

So this Independence Day, let us forget all our differences and be proud of all the sacrifices made by our ancestors “unitedly” to make India a free country. Let’s be Proud of Being an “Indian”, not a North, South, East or West Indian. Just an Indian!

Its way more simple to be patriotic than what we think!

Jai Hind!

THE EDITING STARTUP


The Curious Case of Stockholm Syndrome


RAMYA SUNDARA RAMAN

Most of us may wonder what Stockholm Syndrome is. “Never heard of it, is it like Parkinson’s Disease? Or like Alzheimer’s disease?” These would be standard responses on its mention.

Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a purely psychological phenomenon described first in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.

What Causes Stockholm Syndrome?

It has been found out that approximately one fourth of all hostage victims display Stockholm Syndrome after a period of captivity.

This is a serious and also a complicated emotion of human mind which at times is dangerous, as instead of trying to fight for his/her life from their captivators, the victim sympathizes or takes the side of the captivators or abuser.

Stockholm Syndrome should not subject of ridicule, it can happen to anyone, the strength of the mind and other such bogus ideas play no role. It is the ultimate in survival mechanisms. The precise reason that some people develop Stockholm Syndrome while others do not is complex.

People who develop Stockholm Syndrome have come to identify with (and possibly care about) their captors in an unconscious and desperate act of self-preservation. Stockholm Syndrome most frequently develops during traumatic situations like kidnappings, domestic abuse, or hostage situations, and the effects of this disorder don’t stop once the person has been released.

For example, in 1999, during the Hijacking of Flight IC 814 in Kandahar, the Captain of the Flight, Captain Devi Sharan witnessed how his passengers were slowly starting to develop Stockholm Syndrome, with some faking it and some really sympathizing with the captivators.

In recent cases, the abduction and later, the release of Snapdeal employee, Dipti Sarna highlighted an important point; the girl did not want her abductor to be captured or put behind bars as he hadn’t harmed her and claimed that “ he was there to protect her from his friends who were waiting out there to rape her”. He also knew her favourite brand of chips and took care that she had enough money to reach home, when he dropped her at a railway station. All these acts created sympathy for him in Dipti’s mind which did not allow her to give evidence in such a way which would put him behind bars.

This syndrome does not necessarily take place in case of abductions, it can also take place in an abusive relationship, a person with an abused childhood, concentration camp prisoners etc.,

Stalking is one of the most important examples of acts causing Stockholm Syndrome. Constant following of girls by boys as an act of trying to “woo his dream Girl” is nothing short of torture and harm that a victim faces when he/she is abducted. Movies in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu mainly show a lot of films where a girl initially hates a boy stalking her, then develops a liking for all his antics, be it his coming to her college to pick her up, forcing her for a kiss or any other thing, which she’ll never consent to if she’s in her proper mindset.

The same can happen in case of a boy but the former is more common from times unknown.

The Bollywood film Ranjhanaa is a perfect example for the former, where the lead hero stalks the girl and in the end, she falls for him.

An example for the latter is the hindi film Pukar, where the lead actress tries all methods to woo her love interest and he finally accepts her.

The reasons for this can be many. For example,

1.Self-preservation:

A hostage feels as though his or her captor is doing him or her a favor by allowing them to remain alive. Many prisoners are treated in a sympathetic manner by their captors, allowing them to see their captors in a positive manner.

2.Isolation from the outside world allows the hostage to see the world from the eyes of the captor – the prisoner begins to empathize, sympathize with his or her captor. It is soon the only world the prisoner knows. The captor and prisoner may even begin to share common interests after being together awhile.

3.The prisoner develops a dependence upon his or her abductor – after all, the captor has allowed the prisoner to live, even treated them kindly (in most cases, the kindness is merely perceived).

4.Sometimes the captor shows more concern or care to a hostage than his/her own family members which creates a respect in the mind of the victim for the captor. The lack of care or respect from family is often a great weapon for abductors to pollute the mind of people especially young children to do things for their benefit and turning the victims against their own family.

The bottom line is that the person who develops such feelings takes a very long time to recover from it. It takes a lot of time to make them believe that what they felt was not correct or to believe that such a person was doing more harm or damage to him/her. He/she may face ridicule, isolation, no support or no proper motivation to come out of it… from family members or from society for his/her own welfare which complicates things further than reducing the pain for the victims.

The best treatment for Stockholm Syndrome is intense therapy as well as the love and support from the victim’s family. It may take many years for the former victim to forget the past and recover from Stockholm Syndrome – these shackles are not easily undone.

EDITOR: KAUSHAL BHATT

 

 


Reservation in India: Caste and Beyond


Now, I know why reservation is ‘caste’ based in our country!

Before I proceed, let me specify that I belong to the general category as I draw my roots from the Brahmin ancestry of the sage Bhardwaja. That means I have never availed of reservations for my studies or for any job.

The issue of Reservation in our country is so intertwisted with politics, sociology and economics that it’s very difficult to understand it completely. Those who are getting its benefits don’t want to say or speak a single word about it and those who aren’t getting any advantage are vociferously demanding a new policy for it without analyzing any consequences of their demands.

Before discussing its pros and cons we need to have a complete picture, throughout time. To do that we need to go back to our history lessons and look at each committee formed on the topic of empowerment of the lower castes and on reservations.  

Some of them which had a major impact on the current reservation system are:

In 1882, the Hunter Commission was appointed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule demanded free and compulsory education for all along with proportionate reservation/representation in government jobs. Untouchability was widely practiced at this time in our country. The depressed classes had no shred of dignity at that time and they were regarded as scum.

Even after independence, the situation of the depressed classes remained the same. And to make it worse, most of them were poor and illiterate; the oppression of the society wouldn’t let them grow. So the Kalelkar Commission was appointed in 1953 to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward class. The report was accepted as far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were concerned. The recommendations for OBC’s were rejected. After the implementation of the recommendations of the committee, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes were given a fair share of reservation in the educational institutions, government jobs and political representation.

In 1979, the Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward people. The commission didn’t have exact figures for a sub-caste, known as the Other Backward Classes (OBC), and used the 1930 census data, further classifying 1,257 communities as backward, to estimate the OBC population at 52%.ln 1980, the commission submitted a report, and recommended changes to the existing quotas, increasing them from 22% to 49.5%.ln 1990, the Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs by the then Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh. It is very clear that political motivations fueled decision-making as the reservation recommendations were accepted without analyzing the actual OBC population which, was found to be 41% in 2006 by the NSSO survey, in contrast to the 52% used by the Mandal Commission in 1979. 

The present scenario:

The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are official designations (recognized by Indian Constitution) given to various groups of historically disadvantaged indigenous people in India. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise about 16.6 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively, of India’s population (according to the 2011 census). As the exact population of the OBC category isn’t clear, it is not worthwhile to discuss them.

The above statistics highlight the following:

  1. These people suffered for thousands of years just because of their ‘caste.’
  2. Clearly, their numbers are not something which can be brushed away as negligible.

Let me put forward a question which is most common among people belonging to the general category in our country:

Should ‘caste based reservation’ be abolished by the Indian government?

Before framing an answer, it would do well to go through the following stats and arguments:

  1. 33% of dalits are rejected in resumé screening by caste names in Indian private sector which is supposedly meritocratic.1

These stats indicate that the private sector holds almost no accountability for the all-inclusive growth of the masses. If government would do the same, where would these people go? The job may not provide them the equality which every one of us deserves but at least it is helping them to survive. And this is just one example- in every sphere most of these people are challenged by the society just because of their ‘caste’.

  1. Let us consider another example: Suppose two students of equal intelligence are born; one in an affluent or a middle class family and the other in a slum area or any poor society. Most probably, not necessarily the slum boy or girl would be eligible for a quota as per norms. And it’s required because no matter how hard the poor one will try, he or she won’t be able to challenge the one born in the middle class family in any activity owing to the social, cultural and environmental factors. Can a malnourished cheetah defeat a healthy one?
  1. We can’t put merit before equality. Unless the two people are at the same level, how can one simply allow them to compete at the said level, let alone expect the one with the lesser privileges to win? Yes, it is true the reservation has an edge over merit but on the other hand it’s also true that it has helped many underprivileged sections to come forward in all the spheres such as politics, economics, science etc.
  1. How many of the general category people are coming forward for the inter-caste marriages? Brahmins want to marry Brahmins; Vaishyas wants to marry only Vaishyas and so it is for all the castes. Dalits are regarded as the ‘lower caste’ and no one is willing to marry their daughters or sons to a dalit family with the exception being the love marriages. The IHDS (Indian Human Development Survey) 2011-12 shows only 5% marriages are inter-caste in the society which means that even today society doesn’t accept the lower castes as to our equal.2
  1. One of the benefits of the reservation is quite evident in the following figure:

reservation-falldata

Although there are many factors that have helped in decreasing the poverty ratio yet the reservation remains one of the most powerful factor among the lower caste population.

The scenario is changing and as the people are getting educated, they are moving above the poverty line and consequently, the population of the poor people is falling. But we must consider them as one of our own if we want to eradicate this caste system from our country. Else, this would never end. The Hindu caste system amalgamated with the British political strategies that divided us decades back and it still continues to live with us. Mahatma Gandhi once remarked. “We should be the change we wish to see in others.”

We don’t want to eat with them, we won’t marry them, we will respect their professional designation but at home we will refer to them as ‘inferiors’, all just because of their ‘caste’; and then we will fight against the ‘caste’ based reservation, why? It is just hypocrisy.

The answer is clear: We can’t simply abolish the ‘caste’ based reservation system but every coin has two phases: the system need to be audited with proper revisions. Why?

  1. As already mentioned, OBC category population isn’t known exactly. As per the Mandal commission it is 52% while NSSO survey states it as 41%. Now, in this scenario, there might be some who despite being backward aren’t able to avail the reservation provided by the government and some who, even after being economically forward are enjoying the perks of reservation in absence of any monitoring system.In the span of over 50-60 years, no committee or commission had been setup that can correlate the reservation and its direct impact on the ones availing it. There has been no large scale survey that can highlight the political and social benefits of the caste based reservation.
  1. Initially, it was meant for reducing the sociological gap that existed in our country for centuries. In the current scenario, even after acquiring the sound economic state, these people aren’t able to intermingle with the upper caste people because: Firstly, they aren’t willing to give up the reservation even after benefitting from it (the fight for reservation in the promotions in the public sector organizations is still on). Secondly, sad but true, till the reservation (which is a necessity as stated earlier) remains, upper society would always regard reserved people as inferior.
  1. How the politics is creating a schism between the various groups in the society? By disobeying the honorable supreme court of India. The mandate by the court was not to increase the overall reservation beyond 50% but some of the states like Rajasthan (68% including reservation for specific category of the forward castes) and Tamil Nadu (69%) are openly challenging the court order. This is creating a lot of resentment among the forward castes as it can also be regarded as a form of discrimination.
  1. How can the poor people belonging to the forward caste have any advantage over the economically powerful backward caste? Only about 0.7% scholarship in India is based upon merit which means that the poor forward caste student, if not able to qualify on the basis of merit, is not eligible for merit.
  1. Some of the neediest sections are not even aware of reservations or of the various provisions that exist while the ones already getting its benefits are demanding more privileges.

CONCLUSIONS

The point to be noted here is that, it has now become a vicious circle and was not a political agenda earlier but now has become one.What Ambedkar held in prestige as a development criterion for the under privileged has now purely become a political game for a few parties who tend to use ‘caste’ as a tool for getting votes. Instead of coming up with the new ideas for the eradication of poverty, they focus only on the caste as a measure for representing all the problems of the backward people. This is simply a lie. No doubt, it has helped few but has fuelled casteism in the Indian society and 37.2% people are still below poverty line as per the 2011 census.  Reservation is a necessity but it must be extended beyond caste so as to include all the weaker social and economic sections of the society.

Sources:
[Dalit studies]
[Inter-caste marriages]

EDITOR:BLITHERING IDIOTESS