There has been a lot of debate on the recent reservation rule in India. Just couldn’t get the reservation debate out of my mind so thought would put my views in writing here. At least that way I can complete what I am trying to put across.
Fine, coming directly to the point. I agree that it is disgraceful that the condition of dalits, backward castes and other backward castes (OBCs) is so dismal after nearly 60 years of independence. But while I do want affirmative action I think reservation is the wrong way to do it. Only a thin creamy layer of dalits and tribals has benefited from them. They may aid the children of dalits like Paswan and tribals like Shibu Soren, but will do nothing for the millions without basic education or skills.
Caste prejudice is unquestionably a barrier to employment. But a bigger barrier by far is lack of education and skills. For centuries dalits and tribals are prevented from acquiring literacy or skills. Why isn’t government being pro-active at the grass root level? Only because that is the tough job, it is easier to pass an ordinance or make an amendment in the constitution and make reservations on the top surface. But how do these people reach the top surface without the basic education and skills? Because our hypocritical politicians have systematically neglected education and skill-building for oppressed castes.
I agree that upper caste children go to expensive private schools and get skilled. But government schools(set up by our own leaders for the oppressed people) are notorious for absentee teachers, for children who cannot write their own names after four years of schooling. Even the few who manage to enter college typically find that there is little teaching there either, that college degrees are often worthless. When education provides no skills that will ensure good jobs in later life, poor dalit and tribal families often prefer to pull children out of school and set them to work. This is a vicious circle and the problem complex and the solution obviously not simple.
Well, here is one way to do it. The central and state governments spend, very wastefully, around Rs 110,000 crore a year on education.
Let one-tenth of that be channelled, in planned phases, through the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to create skills among dalits and tribals.
Let these organisations open quality schools in every state capital to begin with, and eventually in every district headquarters. Let them also open polytechnics, vocational training institutes and quality colleges.
These quality institutions must be good enough to attract the best students from all castes.
They must not be schools reserved entirely for dalits and tribals: that will stigmatise them. A quarter to half the seats should be available, on payment of fees, to upper castes. Dalits and tribals should get free education, plus subsidies for hostel accommodation where required.
While such schools will greatly increase opportunities, the bulk of dalits and tribals will remain in government schools. I would like to hope that success in my proposed system will catalyse change in government schools too, but I would not bet on it.
How will CII and FICCI run schools? Possibly through the franchise scheme of Delhi Public School, which has set up a chain of quality schools on behalf of trusts and companies providing the wherewithal.
Corporate members of the two organisations can provide a certain percentage of scholarships needed by the lower castes.
I am sure CII and FICCI will happily take up such a challenge.
Well, I found this quite feasible solution from an article from the Times of India that I read some time back and have taken the liberty of lifting a few statistics from there.
I would love to know what your reactions are as this issue at hand is no longer confined to a select few. Its time we took a stance.
I have enjoyed every minute of writing this piece as it has made me ponder but logically and not emotionally.