I wrote about affirmative action, and why I think the principle of having reservations for marginalized sections of society is sound. My reasoning was quite simply that there is nothing that’s fundamentally different among people from different castes, that these divisions are entirely artificial, and that therefore, the fact that a certain group of people is consistently under-represented means that they have been marginalized. If this is accepted, the fair thing to do is to support this group of people till they can stand on their own feet.
Amitha, whom I pestered into reading the blog, and who told me she was against reservations, said this by email (I’ve made cosmetic changes to the language to make it more, um, ‘me‘):
“The answer, patently obvious, is that this group of people has faced undue subjugation in the past which has left them unable to compete with the general population that hasn’t faced this sort of discrimination.”
I’ve thought about this and it feels right to have reservations from this point of view.
But also, if a generation belonging to a scheduled caste has benefited from reservation, is well educated, and is doing well economically, then that should be a good foundation for the next generation in the same family. The younger generation of this once under-privileged class stands on par with the general populace. Don’t you think reservations should end here for this family since the newer generation obviously hasn’t been disadvantaged?
The following is most of what I said in reply:
2) My point was never that reservations should be blanket-implemented without regard for anything other than caste. Caste just seems to me to be a relatively fair parameter in today’s context (especially so in parts of North India, I must add).
3) Obviously, I’m open to the necessary bounds, limits, restrictions, and qualifications being placed on reservations. ‘Only a few generations of your family will get reservations. After that, you’re on your own.’ seems to me to be a fair argument. (Perhaps one generation isn’t enough).
4) That last point is particularly important in India, because we have a very large number of people
(a) who need help, and,
(b) to do all this on an individual case basis.
5) The best thing to happen in this regard is for the affirmative-action debate to become part of the political discourse and public debate of the country. That, in fact, holds for pretty much everything – sunshine is the best disinfectant.