Many readers have opposed the government’s decision to amend the Constitution to ensure reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in job promotions. I wonder whether they are aware of the procedure adopted for giving promotions. Annual Confidential Reports prepared by the immediate boss determine an employee’s promotion. But the ACRs of the SCs and the STs are hardly unbiased. I have been asked on more than one occasion what my caste is while entering a government building during a security check. We can imagine the circumstances under which the ACRs of SC and ST candidates are prepared. While there is a quota for them at the entry level, they do not necessarily get promoted regularly like the general category candidates.
The government must amend the Constitution because, more often than not, the evaluation of the SC and ST employees is done by officers who belong to an ‘upper’ caste and are biased. When India is yet to recover from the damage inflicted by the British rule of two centuries, how can the SCs and the STs — who have been exploited for centuries — recover in just six decades? All human beings have normal efficiency but reservation is provided to the SCs and the STs because they have not had a fair chance of acquiring education, tuition and decent accommodation.
How many people say Chamar-ji or Jatav-ji? But you will find people frequently saying Mishra-ji, Gupta-ji, Pandit-ji, etc. How many times have you eaten in a hotel named Chamar’s or Jatav’s? But you eat in Panditwala’s, Yadavwala’s or Gupta’s. Reservation will end the day you answer the questions in the affirmative.
One can understand the anger of the readers who oppose reservation in promotions. They fear that it will upset the apple cart of the ‘upper’ castes. The policy of reservation in employment has, no doubt, played an important role in the progress of the SCs and the STs. It has provided them a means of livelihood and social prestige. It has certainly ensured the first step towards equality. But the National Commission for SC/ST data shows that the presence of SCs in Group A and B categories is poor. They have been facing discrimination for ages and measures such as quota in promotions are necessary for their progress. The promotion process is not free from caste bias. The risk can be neutralised only through reservation.
Only a person born a Dalit will understand the agony of discrimination. I plead with the elites not to frustrate the government’s efforts to provide reservation in promotions. What would they lose if the marginalised sections are brought on a par with the rest of society?
We find those enjoying the benefits of reservation advance the specious argument that the SCs and the STs have suffered for thousands of years and they need to be brought on a par with others. No one knows what being on a par with the rest of society means and how long the process will take. Can reservation last forever? How can other communities be punished for what their ancestors did years ago?
Quotas in promotion can be given in a phased manner and for a fixed period. It should not become part and parcel of the system. It is necessary to bear in mind that the aim of reservation is to remove the need for reservation.
Reservation is not a panacea for the sufferings of the SCs and the STs. The problem lies in the behaviour and mindset of the ‘upper’ castes. We cannot talk of equality unless there is a change in their thinking. Prosperity lies in the well-being of all. It is, therefore, important to place everyone on an equal footing.
When marriages still take place between people of the same caste, people are identified more by their surname, when the data shows that the SCs and the STs are not properly represented in government services, and are unable to compete with others, they need to be encouraged even if they fulfil the minimum conditions.