The Affirmative Action debate: A summary

I wrote about why I think affirmative action is not only an acceptable, but also a fair, way of ensuring that the underprivileged in this society get an opportunity to make their lives better. There were responses, and replies – some considered, some impulsive. I’ve attempted to summarise the arguments here.

The argument for affirmative action is straightforward to those inclined to think a certain way: some sections of society are consistently underrepresented in education and employment, when there is no reason for them to be. Hence affirmative action.

The recurring arguments against reservation seem to be these (recurring because I’ve heard these from at least three people):

1) The basis for affirmative action should not be caste, because that will only deepen the divide. Reservations should instead be based on financial means – there are a lot of poor people among the ‘upper’ castes, who one might think deserve help. I agree to some extent with this. On the other hand,  I read this in yesterday’s news: It seems a village panchayat in Rajasthan has fined three Dalit men for drinking water from a public tap.

The story has evoked outrage, and condemnations have been issued from high up atop the tree-house. On the ground, though, the Dalit men were roughed up for protesting, the sarpanch is still loose, and the police have only reluctantly registered this as an incident. It is perhaps ironic that this should happen in the same state that saw the Gujjars and the Meenas fighting, one to be called more backward than the other. Or perhaps ironic doesn’t cover the scale of the idiocy or the injustice.

2) Reservations have been in force for six decades. It has either already achieved its goals and is now just fodder for elections and political rallies, or if it hasn’t worked after sixty years of implementation, expecting it to work now is just optimism to a fault. Reservations aren’t the way to bring about lasting social change.

One hopes that better economic status will lead to better social acceptance. If this isn’t going to happen, and if Dalits are going to be treated like crap regardless of financial status, I’d rather they be able to at least earn a living.



The test I created is still open. I want enough votes for a statistically significant result. Do take the test!

[End. Fini. Kaputski. Reservations]


6 thoughts on “The Affirmative Action debate: A summary”

  1. The thing about reservations based on caste is that things can never get better. Poor people can become rich, but a lower caste person will always remain there, and so will his/her children.

    If I had to choose – be a lower caste person and rich, or upper class and live in poverty, I would choose the former in a heartbeat. Money talks. And when you walk into a showroom to buy a car, no one asks you for your caste.

    If we have to have reservations at all, it must be based on a parameter which is flexible and can be improved.

  2. The first two statements you’ve made are contradictory, you realise? Nobody will look at your caste if you have money is probably (hopefully) more true than the first sentence.

    The last statement makes sense to me. I’ve said quite often that the best way to implement affirmative action is to do it individually. That way, you can be certain that this is helping the people who deserve it. We have too large a population to do this, though; again, like I’ve said quite often.

  3. You misunderstand. When I say that people’s caste can’t change, it means that it won’t change on paper and that as far as the government is concerned, you and all your future family remains bound to the same caste and hence there is never any change in the official caste thing – lower castes will always remain lower castes.

    If you have money, people won’t care about your caste. On paper though, you’re still the same.

  4. Ah. Fair enough. We all agree that the ‘creamy layer’ rule is sensible. Kids from wealthy households don’t need reservation because they also happen to be from a ‘backward’ caste.

    If there is one reason I think a caste-based census makes sense, it is this. It will tell us who needs help in this country.

  5. The brahmin community has been one of the dirty communities which has planned strategically to fool people in the name of god by generating the highest donations in the temple, doing business to fool and loot money in the name of puja, death, marriage, new home… For any occasion, there’s one puja. They charge very high prices and take away all the items after the puja. They have created prostitution in the name of devadasis. They suppress jobs and employment and welfare and equality are destroyed. they have destroyed the Indian medical system. They have killed Indian medical science like siddha vaidhyam and created ayurveda and carnatic music by destroying dravidian music. Even today they have the temples under their control. They say they don’t like untouchables, but they have always been sexually harassing low caste women.

  6. If money talked, Dalits would not be refused service at barbers, have to use separate tumblers at tea stalls, not being allowed to rent housing/office space etc, they would be treated in the same way any other money-having customer is.

    How does economic reservations compensate for the effects of caste-based discrimination or ensure that government jobs don’t become caste monopolies?

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