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Reservation For Dalits In Private Sector

By Dr. Udit Raj

22 June, 2004
Countercurrents.org

The reservation in private sector is the talk of town. There are people who are in favour and against it. Maharashtra govt. has passed a bill paving the way for reservation in private sector for Dalits and Backwards, which is being opposed by Shiv Sena. As amended now the reservation will be applicable to only those businesses, which are helped or contributed by the government. In these circumstances, there is big question to ask why Dalits are feeling the need for reservation in private sector when they already possess reservation in government jobs. In 1999, there were 481 judges in High Courts of India out of which only 15 were of Scheduled Caste background while there were 21 judges in the Supreme Court and there was not a single judge from Scheduled Caste background. And in 1995, in Group A Central Government services the Dalits' participation was just 10 per cent. Now that PSUs are being plundered and privatisation seems to be on a warpath, where will Dalits go for earning their livelihood and respect?

Reservation is traditional proprietary in India. After the invasion of Aryans, there was a fierce struggle between Aryans and Natives, who are Dalits of today. The Aryans, outsiders or invaders finally won. They came to the conclusion though that it would be difficult to establish their rule with the sword so they conjured up the idea of reservations in religion, occupations and privileges for themselves. They further coupled it with the miserable life of indigenous people of India that is Dalits attributing it to sins of past lives, fate, curse and divine will.

In this set up Brahmins came to be associated with learning, Kshatriyas were given the duty of protecting the boundaries, Vaishyas took care of businesses while Shudras were told to serve all three. And none was to go beyond their caste-based occupations. This system has been continuing since then and is quite rampant in every walk of Indian life. The people who are against the reservation in private sector do so on the basis of this tradition and historical mind set. If mothers of Dalit children who instead of bathing, feeding and preparing their children for schools, clean your and my feaces every morning and carry it on their head had their misery, pain and anguish been understood by opponents of reservation, the country would already have been a prosperous and peaceful one. The people who are not allowed to drink water from village pond the country would have
developed much before if Manuvadis had known their stigma. The village water sources are still untouchable for Dalits of village Chakwada while animals freely drink from them.

The people in urban areas think this is not credible and tell they are above caste feelings. When they are further probed if they are going to marry their children into Dalits and vice-versa, excluding exceptions, they become cold to the idea and will debate you no end. At any meeting place one's name won't be sufficient in introduction, conversationalists one way or the other try to get to know the caste of each other, if not directly. And without it, the profile or introduction remains incomplete, which can't be said of other
religions. With the help of reservation in govt. jobs and education, Dalits have come to participate in mainstream. And anywhere else where there is no reservation media, judiciary, export-import, businesses and high skilled technical and professional jobs for instance they are entirely nonexistent for instance. Over more than 100 celebrities participated in Olympic Torch Relay in Delhi but not a single Dalit was part of it. We should try to get to the reason why.

The people who speak against reservation are generally from Sangh Parivar or BJP. When in 1990 Mr. V. P. Singh announced reservation for OBCs; BJP didn't oppose it directly. Instead Mr. L. K Advani took out the Rath Yatra for construction of Ram temple. During that time there was great anger in middle class and so-called upper-caste and all this came out along with the final outcome of the Yatra. The success of Kamandal lied in Mandal and BJP was able to achieve what it couldn't since last 30 years. It came into government. The lack of intelligent leaders among Backwards was a big reason why they failed to see through this strategy or why would Mr. Narender Modi, Ms. Uma Bharati, Mr. Vinay Katiyar and Mr. Kalyan Singh be working for BJP? The logic doing rounds these days against this move is that the efficiency and meritocracy will be adversely affected.

As of writing this piece, there is no reservation in private economy of India unlike Affirmation Action practiced by the businesses in America. Why then the Indian economy hasn't been able to throw up a challenge against global companies and products? Tell me one Indian product, which is global brand? Businesses do most of the research and development in America but in India R & D is taken care of by the government while businesses thrive on them.

Indian industries consider American businesses as their role model but they don't want to know a thing or two about the compassionate work done by them towards the weaker sections. In America businesses on their own without any legal necessity provide Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Red Indians with employment keeping in mind their populations. In 2001, when Mr. Bill Gates came to India, he pledged Rs. 5000 crore for computerisation.

When an American businessman can prove this much caring towards a foreign country, just imagine how much committed they must be to the welfare and needs of their fellow countrymen. In 1982, American media came to know that there were only two per cent of Afro-Americans in media. This stunned editors and owners of big-time newspapers and they started making extra effort to search for the minority candidates. Finally, they trained them and employed them. One more survey was done after 7-8 years and within this short span; it came out that their participation has reached 8-9 per cent. This is called patriotism. Last year in Michigan University a white student-- who had secured more marks than an Afro-American but who still failed to get admission in Law School- challenged the Affirmative Action and lost the case in US Supreme Court by a margin of 5-4. It is to be noted that most of big businesses, educational institutions and philanthropic organisations like Ford Foundation came in support of the Black Student and aired their views that under no circumstance should the Affirmative Action be discontinued. Finally, US Supreme Court gave a verdict in favour of reservation for Blacks. Indian corporates benchmark their business strategies against American businesses but they don't want to emulate societal obligations, which they practice. In fact, they should take up this wonderful opportunity to set right, the wrong, which is continuing for thousands of years. Indian brands, products and services have never been able to match up to the standard we generally see in North America and Western Europe, one of the reasons of it may be the exclusion of hard working, honest and laborious Dalits from economic life of India.

It shocks me that some corporate houses are heard opposing it saying that private businesses are the result of their hardwork and money. I want to know if Indian software industry which is flourishing could it have done even one per cent of it had their been no IITs and IIMs around? Certainly, these were not the creations of richest people in India and surely we know a thing or two about market failures, who pays them up in India unlike developed countries? In sum, nobody rich or poor lives in vacuum anywhere on earth. If Dalits will be employed, they will be paid according to their contributions. It won't be a free lunch. The revenue collection of Indian govt. is about 8.5 to 10 per cent of total GDP. In developed countries it is about 25 per cent and even in less developed economies it ranges from 16 to 20 per cent. The source of government revenues is mostly income tax in foreign countries, while in India, most of it is excise and customs. There are thousands of rich businessmen, who have about 15-20 Acs in their homes but while filing income tax returns they show their household expenses around Rs. 50 to 60 thousands. Many do not deposit sales tax, which is collected from public, and when sales tax officers come calling, they protest and cry foul that they are being
harassed.

Any nation is the bigger concept of a home. If a person in our home is depressed or not in the best of health, it affects the well being of entire family. Similarly, if Dalits don't have proper education, decent places to live and prosperous means of earning livelihood, the country as a whole won't be prosperous, happy and peaceful and in Indian context it is already true. I hope the verdict of 14th Lok Sabha teaches them a lesson that how anguish and deprivation of the poor, Dalits and Minorities threw NDA out of power. BJP during its rule was concerned about only one section, upper-caste rich, who wanted to get further rich. And it lost the power. Let's think about weak too. Middle Class always complains that there is too much of a caste in Indian political set up. But, it doesn't seem to wipe it out. When there is caste in society, it will always affect politics. And always for worse.

When Clive Lloyd of East India Company was hurtling through Calcutta with about 1500 soldiers, there were lakhs of locals, who witnessed it mutely. Clive Lloyd later on said if his party had been recipient of even one pebble each, they would have been finished. The horse-riders, who set off from Kabul and Kandhahar would pass through Delhi as if they were strolling in their personal rose gardens. Various Indian communities used to watch spectacle of one invasion after the another and doing nothing. It happened because only one caste (Kshatriyas) was expected to secure the borders and country at large. Other communities thought it was beyond their jurisdiction. This same caste system has prevented the growth of sense of belonging for the country and feeling of responsibility and concern for one another. When Britishers tried to open the doors of public education for Dalits, they met with immense resistance from dominant castes. They came to realise that changing the social and cultural set-up wouldn't be an easy task and that if they did so it would lead them to pack up. Hence, the foreigners could come and rule over the Indians but Indians wouldn't like to treat their fellow
countrymen with humane behaviour.

If Indian industry opposes it, it will be the same mentality, which lays out a red carpet for foreigners but which is incompatible with an equal place for Dalits under the sun. Today, if by hook and crook FIIs, WB, MNCs and IMF are helped by various policies, subsidies of the government, Indian industrials aren't seen protesting it. In capital market there is shocking clout of FIIs and this clout makes the market very volatile but not a single industrial criticises it. The real loss of Indian industry occurs when MNCs get favourable policies and when agreements are dictated by agencies like WB and IMF. Indian corporate houses should fight them instead of fighting against reservation for Dalits in private sector. If Dalits get opportunity to get ahead in life, nation as a whole will get ahead. It won't be a benefit, which will accrue to outsiders. They should help Dalits become entrepreneur or at least they should buy raw materials, products and services from them, so that caste based occupation is done away with once and for all.

Dr. Udit Raj is the National President of Indian Justice Party. He can be contacted at 478, Laxmi Bai Nagar, New Delhi-23Tel.: 011-26871600, Mobile: 011-32001477 or 9899382211
Email: buddha@ndf.vsnl.net.in