A kind gent (lady?) left this comment on my Dalit post , which is the basis of this post. This entry partly tries to address some issues he (she?) has raised, and is partly a record of my stray thoughts on the subject.
But let me ask you a question, do you or donâ€™t you agree that there are indeed grave problems in the realm of social justice in India? I think before blaming other groups for political conversion or trying to find conspiracy angle to these things we should think about the caste problems carefully.
The right question we need to ask is this: what is the precise definition of social justice? I’m rather loath to accept the definition in currency for most of the 59 years since Independence. This definition has its roots in the Marxist scheme of a classless society, which is a little more than an absurd fantasy. According to this scheme, one would expect a scientist to earn the same as a railway porter and still feel happy about it because he’s living in an equal, just society.
We have seen it happen in the erstwhile USSR where the gap between a chosen few and almost the whole country was enormous. They used fancy balderdash to trumpet it: egalitarian society. The current regime is using its full might to ensure that we get there. Only, we call it social justice. Our means too, to get there are different.
Fifty nine years may not be long, but it is significant to show the success or failure of our understanding and implementation of social justice. We have not implemented social justice. We’ve legitimized freeloading. Nothing else explains the uniformly abject inefficiency of every institution in this country. A superior cannot chide his junior for inefficiency/dereliction of duty for the fear of inviting a caste-discrimination lawsuit.
In the name of social justice, we’ve encouraged absenteeism, petty politicking, groupism, laziness, and even violence. If the morons who took over the country–mostly after 1965–were serious about real social justice, they would’ve introduced measures to empower those they wanted to uplift. Empowerment by putting into place systems that enabled the selfsame Dalits etc, to rise through dignity. But that’d be the end of their vote banks. So they perverted the whole process to ensure that the downtrodden were always dependent on this political class.
They corrupted what India was always known for: its system of values.
Look around everywhere today. The most vociferous claimants of reservations never talk about dignity or hard work: they vehemently oppose it but sugarcoat this opposition in clever language. They simply say, “merit is not important,” “how backward you are takes precedence over merit.” Merit is earned while backwardness needs just a certificate. They faithfully follow the precedent that was set earlier. For example, Karnataka’s Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities were the earliest birds who feasted on the Reservation benefits. But the distribution of said benefits however, is grossly disproportionate to their population.
Now for the premise on which Reservations are built. It is easy to blame the caste system but is it the whole truth? The caste system is perhaps largely irrelevant today where occupation-based division of society is more or less obsolete. As a method of organizing society, there are few systems that are superior to the caste system. This is for another day. It is actually incorrect to blame the caste system as evil–the culprit is really the perversion of the caste system . In his latest book, Falling over Backwards, Arun Shourie raises some interesting questions:
How is it that what was explicitly forbidden by the Constitution–classification based on caste–has become the rule? How is it that what were enabling provisions have become mandatory minima?… How is it that what were begun as reservations at entry became reservations in promotion also? How did this become a right to accelerated promotions? How did that become a right “accelerated promotions with consequential seniority? How did that become a right to have the prescribed standards diluted–to the point of being waived altogether? Even in educational institutions. Is this any way to become a “knowledge super-power?” [.] The race then was to get one’s group recognized as a higher caste. How has it become a race to get it anointed as “backward?” Are the “backward castes”, the weak ones who need protection and privileges? … Who is most responsible for atrocities on harijans ?
And more such uncomfortable questions throughout this compelling book. Interestingly, the ones who make the loudest pro-Reservation noise are not the actual folks from downtrodden/backward castes but the liberals who do one, some or all of the following:
Lend legitimacy to braindead schemes by the likes of Arjun Singh.
Consciously advocate the merit-as-bullshit (see above) argument while arguably, lots of these folks have gotten where they are by hard work, and merit.
Visit/meet villagers and/or “low caste” people in rural India and build a case for Reservations based on what they see there.
Build their case based purely on specious premises.
The last point is noteworthy: it is easy to find a premise, any premise. From there, it is just a step away: data is readily available aplenty. However, it requires a special genuis to twist it to prove their premise. The Left-liberal clique possesses this in copious amounts. Their argument is mostly based on appealing to emotion. They see the appalling poverty in the Indian rural side and attribute that solely to the caste system: therefore, Reservations are a must. This clique is out to inflict the maximum damage to the cause of the Dalits, downtrodden, etc. By constantly harping on their backwardness, they perpetuate it: you’re backward, only Reservations can help you. We, the do-gooders, the Reformers of Society will ensure that you get them.
We again return to the same question: what makes us so sure that Reservations are the only way forward despite the miserable record of its failure over 59 years? The truth is India now has more castes than at any other time in her long history. A political class whose avowed aim is to abolish caste has embarked on a massive caste-data search today. The few remaining sane voices are out-shouted, or go unheeded.
If we were really convinced that the caste system is evil, why do we still perpetuate it in the name of eradicating it? Why weren’t we serious about Ambedkar’s rider of 10 years?
Now I ask my gentle commenter, what “caste problems” do we examine? More importantly, where do we start?
Cross-posted at Desicritics.