Caste-virus behind flawed merit concept

25Jul08

Following is an article from an educated Indian in DNA, please go thru it.  Concerned Indians are slowly starting to realise how malfuncational th genesis of caste systema and hindu social order.

P. Sampath

 

The quota system may be flawed, but so is our idea of social reality

Nothing brings out the tiger in the mousiest of people like the subject of quotas and reservations. The most affable of individuals, whom you never imagined had an opinionated bone in their body, can become vociferously argumentative, and sometimes abusive, if you oppose their views on the subject of reservations.To me, this is proof of how deeply people care about their class/caste positions and the privileges that come with it. Reams and reams have been written on the subject of reservations. But the debate by and large has been so polarised that the real issue at hand gets completely sidelined – a social and economic disability caused by the most monstrous form of discrimination ever invented by human beings. My understanding of the issue is as follows: First of all, any person who opens his mouth on the subject of reservations should start by stating his class, caste, and the educational opportunities that he has enjoyed. This is important, because, more than in any other debate, in this one, who you are nearly always determines what your position would be. I think it can safely be generalised that in circles dominated by the upper castes, such as medical colleges, IIT/IIMs, and the English language media, the consensus is that reservations are bad because they harm merit. And outside these circles of privilege, the arguments you hear are very different, and more diverse.I recently had an opportunity to interact with a Dalit activist and came away stunned by my own upper caste biases, which were clinically dismantled by him.

The first myth to get demolished was one of merit vis-à-vis reservations. “If you think reservations are bad, why don’t you travel in the general compartment in trains?” he asked. “Why are reservations good the moment you can buy them?” Is being able to afford a second class ticket when millions can’t, a matter of merit? Come to think of it, money-based reservation – operated overtly and covertly – is the biggest quota system there is. You don’t see upper caste students taking to the streets in protest against the so-called management quota, which is nothing but reservation for the wealthy. And how can we even talk of merit so long as quality education – the primary conduit to prosperity – is not accessible to all? The very notion of merit, he argued, is only possible when all the contenders begin at the same level and enjoy equal advantages. If you pit Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal, you can find out which one merits the Wimbledon crown more. But if you enter one-legged men in the tournament, merit becomes meaningless. Economic deprivation is a serious disability. So is social discrimination and oppression perpetrated across centuries, and which is very much alive even today. To take just one example, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, recently did a survey on the social profile of the country’s 315 top editorial decision-makers in English and Hindi dailies, and TV channels. Can you guess how many of them belonged to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes? 40? 20? 5? The answer is zero. There is a media explosion happening in our country. And not one Dalit editor-in-chief. “Twice born Hindus (‘dwijas’ comprising Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs, Vaishyas and Khatris) account for about 16 per cent of India’s population, but they are about 86 per cent among the key media decision-makers. Brahmins alone constitute 49 per cent of the key media personnel,” he says, reading out from the survey. And this is a study of just one sector – the media. We can guess how it might be in the others. Now, do we want to believe that this is purely because of merit? That upper caste Hindus are somehow more intelligent, more gifted, than the rest of the country’s population? That’s what racist whites believe vis-à-vis blacks.

Seeing me silent, my friend laughs. He quotes BR Ambedkar, who once observed that the meritorious upper castes could not even manage to write the two Hindu epics: Ramayana and Mahabharat. They were written by Valmiki and Vyasa- two Dalits. Again, if we really are so fanatical about merit, why is it that we upper caste Hindus visit temples where the priests are not chosen on merit? In every other religion – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism – anybody can become a priest, provided they fulfill certain requirements. Not so in Hinduism. Will the upper caste advocates of merit please care to explain why a Dalit should be barred – on non-meritorious grounds – from what is by all accounts a lucrative profession? And it is these same panjandrums who peddle nightmares of how the Indian bureaucracy and our healthcare system will collapse if they are ‘overrun’ by Dalit civil servants and Dalit doctors who might come in through a quota.

My own view of reservation is that it is an extremely flawed system. Something in me rebels against the idea that my destiny should be determined by my caste. But I also believe that as a privileged upper caste, it is simply not tenable for me to oppose the one powerful tool the Dalits happen to possess at the moment, to fight their battle. Yes, let us think of a better route to social equity by all means. But till we find it, let us not block whatever path exists. It is true that in many villages in India, it is the Brahmins who are the most deprived, not the OBCs. The quota system will finish these impoverished Brahmins, for no fault of theirs. It is unfair, it is cruel. But so is our social reality. It is equally unfair and cruel that not one of our multitude of corporate houses is headed by a tribal or a Dalit. It is unfair and cruel that Sonia Gandhi will not pick someone from outside her family and ‘caste’ to lead the party that once led the country’s freedom movement. It is unfair and cruel that white skin and good looks is more likely get you a job as a TV anchor or an air hostess, not ‘merit’.

If there is so much of merit all around us that we are terrified it will get ‘spoiled’ by ‘quota Dalits’, how come there is so much corruption? Why is the BMC such a mess? Is it run by Dalits? Or by a coalition of incompetents from all communities? Just who are we kidding? We can choose to either acknowledge the social reality, or hide our historically appropriated caste/class privileges behind a smokescreen called merit. If I had my way, I would ban the caste system, which most Dalits any way hold on par with the apartheid system in South Africa. And I think such a view is more than justified. If you put upper caste Hindus in place of whites, and compare the percentages in the population with representation in the power elite – there is a clear parallel. In India, it is a Brahmin-Marwari elite. In South Africa, even under a black President, it is a white-dominated elite.Let’s face it. We Hindus don’t want to give up the caste system. The evidence – from matrimonial customs to religious practices – is too overwhelming for me to even go into it. And so long as we won’t ban caste from our own minds, we should stop complaining about quotas – no matter how ‘unfair’. And shut up about merit.

 

Source: DNA



7 Responses to “Caste-virus behind flawed merit concept”

  1. 1 Ramesh

    The writer of the piece “Caste virus behind flawed merit concept” is an illiterate. He/she has no idea about the representation of so-called “upper castes” in various State Governments that employ over two crore people. Has this person cared to examine how many of the so-called “upper castes” are MLAs in TN/AP/Karnataka/Kerala/Maharashtra?

    Incidentally, people who want to ban the caste system are the ones who want caste-based reservation and since they control the government all over India, they don’t want to do it. No caste means no caste-based quota. This much should be clear to the person who has authored the silly piece above.

    It is also clear that this person has no idea of what life is. Perhaps a spell in a good mental hospital will do some good.

  2. 2 Ramesh

    If you and many others (who are only inciting caste hatred in the guise of promoting social justice) cannot differentiate between personal and private (non-law-breaking)activity and government sponsored discrimination, go have your head examined by a non-caste foreign doctor to prevent charges of bias.

    For your information, a Jatav (reportedly advanced among the scheduled castes) are highly unlikely to marry Valmikis. Advanced SCs in TN are not going to touch the Arundhatiyars. Malas will not marry Madigas.

    A person marrying into the same caste is not hurting anyone else’s chances of education, jobs, etc.

    If Scheduled caste women marry non-SCs, their offsprings will lose reservation rights. Have you thought of all these things?

    Don’t go on repeating the garbage published on other websites that are also engaged full-time in inciting caste hatred in the guise of promoting ‘dalit’ rights.

    Working for the welfar of ‘dalits’ is one thing, inciting hatred is altogether another activity. While is social welfare activity, inciting hatred is a criminal activity.

  3. 3 Ramesh

    I have only one advice for the managers of this website and to all others who are running similar websites.

    Grow up. Stop terrorising the society by your lies and falsehood. Stop propagating who said what several thousand years ago. Believe in yourselves and have faith in your own capabilities instead of inciting hatred against other human beings in the society.

  4. 4 Ramesh

    If you people have the guts, come out with statistics on the number of caste crimes committed against all castes and not just the Scheduled Castes. I challenge you people to disclose statistics on crimes against scheduled castes where ‘caste’ was the prime and only motivation. Don’t mix up ‘caste-motivated’ crimes and other crimes where the victim is incidentally a dalit. If caste is to be considered, then in each and every crime, the caste of all other human beings should also be disclosed. Such crimes would outnumber the crimes against dalits 10:1. Do some solid research and then publish the verifiable data instead of publicising non-existent situations.

  5. 5 Prasanna Tekuri

    A really inspiring story from the IIT:

    http://battakiran.wordpress.com/2008/07/24/disabled-student-all-set-to-graduate-from-iit-madras/

  6. It is true that merit is geographically distributed across India & large section of the population do not have access to decent primary education to hone their meritorious skills.

    But how far is it true that reaons for such denial to decent primary education is based on caste? Isn’t the reason for denial purely economic? Poor folks of India are hard pressed to supply roti,kaapda & makaan for their kids . When will they think of education or even healtchcare unless it is provided free of cost by the government along with a mid-day meal and good, quality faculty & doctors? But no, our primary education & healthcare is in shambles today. Everyone is eyeing higher education.

    The issue of reservation in higher education institutes is a means of getting proportional representation in the society. At one level, one can agree with that concept. But does it mean that you have to lower the cut-off marks for entry for the resevred students ? Why should a handicap be given to a reserved category students to enter ?

    Historically, black people have been marginalised world-wide . Does it mean that in an Olympic race , a black person should start with a handicap of “x” meters?

    Reservation in long-distance trains is purely because of a supply and demand imbalance. You have the supply of less number of seats though the demand is 3x. Obviously, it is the first come first reserved rule which exists over there.Come to think of it, one should get rid of general compartments in the long distance trains . In local trains, there is no reservation at all.

    As long as caste system exists, Dalit activists have a job. As long as poverty exists, communists too will enjoy their prominence under the sun, In a perverted way, both the communists & the Dalit activists do not want the system to change for their own selfish identities.

    Our politicians exist because they want to keep our nation underdeveloped. At every step in the history of modern india, when india has a chance to join the global league they will regress back to right the wrongs made thousand years back. Be it the demolition of Babri Masjid , be it the protest against development of nuclear technology or be it the reservation of backward castes.

  7. 7 kureela

    Dalits have to arm them self to punish the barbaric hindus.seprate settlement is the only choice for dalits to punish the hindus and hindu led government.


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